Sunday, October 2, 2011

A fight that wears me to the bone

Hello Friends;
  One of the difficulties with blogging is trying to make one's blog postings relevant and interesting.  Some like to post a lot, some like to pick and choose, and others like me are still finding our way.  You see, when I sit down and write about an issue, I become immersed into it and quite emotionally involved.  I would never make a good journalist as I'd quickly go  So, how does all of this come from me to you today?  Well, a confluence of emails have forced me out of the lazyboy - chair and description - and say some things strong upon my mind.

  The first email is one you have likely seen on Scotties blog.  Our wonderful friend Miles sent this to us in concern, from half-way across the world, of the way that we Americans handle "justice".  His concerns are well founded.  I have included the information from QS2 that Miles sent me, and below that my response to Miles after looking some things up on (dtm)

This is TJ Tremble as he was aged 14. He committed a murder. He was sentenced to “Death in prison” never to be released. He was tried as an adult. Needless to say he did not get to vote like an adult, drive like an adult, drink like an adult or anything else like an adult for the very obvious and simple reason that he was NOT AN ADULT.
There are only two countries in the UN who have not signed up to stopping this sort of sentencing madness. One of them is Somalia.

He is one of many.

Hi Miles;

I am sad to say that I did look up not only the picture but the story of TJ. As you may know, he was charged with the killing of his step father and mother, using a gun, and stealing a car.
He was originally found on the side of the road, intoxicated but stable, with the car in the ditch. He was questioned, aged determined, and ownership of the vehicle determined....upon which the owners, the step father/mother, were found dead of a .22 calibre shot to the head. He was read his miranda, his parents were notified and his room searched. The parents found a ride to the station, and were able to send a message to "come clean" through the officers but were not allowed to speak with the kid. He was questioned without his parents, his attorney, and under the influence of alcohol. Further, it is reported that he was 14.5 years old, but only an 8th grade education, which indicates some being held back in school and therefore we can think about a lesser intelligence as a further factor.

Now for the good news: He has been granted another trial through the assistance of a place called EJI (Equal Justice Initiative) in that the confession should be thrown out.

Michigan has no death penalty. Unfortunately, there is no parole for murder, so he is literally sentenced to die in prison. A long, slow lingering death.
 The irony:  While Michigan no longer sells cigarettes to prisoners, when they still did so, the "men" under the age of 18 who were sentenced as adults, we not allowed to purchase cigarettes.  Why?  Too young.  You have to be 18 to understand the effect of cigarettes and make that decision. 

  You may recall my posts regarding Paul Gingrich. 
This is the picture of Paul as he is being led from the trial after sentencing.  He is 12.  He has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.  A twelve-year old boy tried and sentenced as an adult.  This was in northern Indiana.  Interestingly, just across the border, in Michigan, a 21 year old woman is expecting to do about 6-years for killing her child.  So, a child who allegedly killed an adult gets 25+ years, an adult who kills a child gets 6.  I don't get it.
  Melissa, who surely has difficulty getting her wings to fit neatly into her wardrobe, told me about Paul, and she also told me about another boy being given up to the holy grail of prosecutorial aspirations.  Please meet Christian Fernandez.  He is an 11-yr. old 6th grader, who has no understanding of the machinations going now.  I've been so sad to hear this boy's story, and it begins with a mother only 12 years older than he is.  Yep, do the math.
  The story against him is that, left alone with a two-year old brother, he somehow assaulted the little one which, two days later, resulted in death.  The question, of course, is what would have happened if the child was not left with another child, or if the parent had been a parent, further, if the parent had taken the little one to the hospital instead of "wiping his face and putting ice on his head".  
  Well, as you can tell by that poorly worded paragraph, I'm a bit rattled by the enormity of this.  Melissa is working toward another petition and included a link for me to share with you all.    Please click on Petition to go to that. (Petition)
  Now for some good news.  Thank goodness.  Does everyone remember Jordan Brown? 

I'm going to let Melissa tell you in the words that she used to tell me....

How are you doing? I thought about you and figured I would send you an update. The latest on Jordan is that he is awaiting a trial in juvenile court. Three media sources in PA have petitioned the judge to have an open hearing (juvenile cases are closed to the public in PA) and the judge denied their request. They appealed to the Superior Court and so his trial is delayed for two months. I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing - opening the trial to the media. If there is corruption in Lawrence County, like I suspect there is, an open trial is best. It's a tough call. The delay could last up to two months while the other court makes a decision.

  So, if you didn't catch that, Jordan, who was 11 at the time of his arrest and incarceration....close to three years ago now, and still not tried or convicted, is going to be tried as a juvenile.  And why is that surprising...he's a kid!  But, you have no idea the fight that went into getting the courts to see him as one.  All you who signed his petition can be glad knowing that your efforts were successful!  Thank You!!!

  So, what a post, huh.  It's hard to keep the attention focused on it all, and even harder to not allow oneself to become exhausted with the enormity of this trend of treating children as adults at a whim.  I expressed similar to Melissa, and her response was incredibly encouraging.  I'd like to post that below...hope you don't mind Melissa.

Some days it is easier to fight these things than other days. Sometimes I have a really bad day and I step back, take a day or two off, and then come back to it. There are a lot of hateful and angry people out there and that makes this kind of work very difficult. But there are a lot of good and kind people out there too - people who want to fix these injustices but don't know how.

I don't know that there is really a choice when it comes to keeping at a fight like this. The kids who get hurt by our justice system really have no voice. I am one of those people who believes that if we see something evil, or see something that is happening that is wrong, we have an obligation to stand up against it. If we do nothing then we are accomplices. I don't want to be an accomplice. I don't want to wait for someone else to do something. I can't fix the world, but I can slowly work toward making it just a tiny bit better...even if it is just by touching a few people's lives. You know, Jordan's case got moved to juvenile court. That's a win. There were so many battles along the way to even get to that point, but that taught me that people CAN make a real difference. Had Jordan been tried in adult court it would have sent the message to prosecutors that doing something like that to an 11 year old is ok. The same goes for Cristian. If I can't get Cristian's case moved I can raise as much awareness as possible so that when he does get his trial it will just take one juror for a mistrial or acquittal.

I know how you feel...I know how reading the news and seeing the injustices and the duplicity in terms of how one person is treated one way and another is treated another gets you down. I have those days too. Sometimes I have those weeks. But if we ignore it and we do nothing it will only get worse. Meaningful change doesn't happen overnight but I believe with every part of my being that change CAN happen.
  My friends, please note the links on the right.  Please care just a bit longer.  Melissa's words have really encouraged me to keep on keeping on.  I hope they encourage you, too.


Anonymous said...

Lord forgive them, they know not what it is they do!

I hope the universe forgives what we in the USA are doing with our Justice system, because the enlightened people of this world do not. Indeed I can not forgive it, and I will do my part to help change it. Like the people on the wall street protest, the more of us who voice our objections, the better the chance these abuses will stop.

How can grown ups be more concerned with their own welfare than the welfare, the needs, the rehabilitation of a child?

Thanks Randy for posting these things, and thanks to all who bring them to our attention. It is a hard read, it is an emotional sewer to research and write about. You have done a great job of keeping the spot light on these topics, these children in need, these missteps of justice. I thank you.

Hugs, Scottie

randy said...

Thank You, Scottie;
Like you, and as Melissa has so eloquently said here: we don't have to fix the world, just try to make it a little bit better. I would like to end my days knowing that I did something to be of some help somewhere to someone. Otherwise, what purpose is there for life?