In a bid to learn more about the recent murder of a local 60-year-old man I attended court, but while I was there another matter went to trial. It was a case of local man who had made threats to the life of his ex-wife, police officers and their families.
The accused pleaded not guilty, heard the testimony of his victims and witnesses and then changed his plea to guilty. The man was sentenced to 8 months behind bars.
The last place that I want to be as a journalist is in court. It’s a view into people’s lives I’d rather not see. I don’t want to be the one to report on them either, but I walked in, and being there I knew I should stay. I knew I’d have to report on it too.
It’s a small town. I’ve kept names out of it, but it doesn’t take much to be Sherlock Holmes in a town this small.
Keeping the names out of the newspaper is a feeble attempt to protect the innocent people involved in the case: the victims, the kids. If you talk to your peers about this sad case, try to keep in mind the absolutely faultless people who are impacted by this. Imagine being a child in a home where these threats have been playing out, a child from the same home that experienced a terrible tragedy that turned the world on its head for this family. I can’t imagine going through that myself.
The father of the accused was in court for the sentencing. Outside he told me that this case is a ‘two-sided thing.’ All matters are at least two-sided, but fundamentally that doesn’t make the threats, the multiple specific threats, go away. They just hang there.
The saddest part of the whole trial in my view is that the unfolding tragedy can be traced back to one awful accident, and it is the trauma stemming from that which needs addressing. The judge who sentenced the man may feel some gladness. He caused that man to be held away from society for longer than the even prosecution had asked for. But the fundamental problem has not been addressed. Putting the accused in jail isn’t going to fix anything. What we all need to think about is what happens when he gets out and what we could possibly do to make things better. Safer.
As he testified, the accused said that he was not able to get grief or alcohol counseling in jail. If that same broken man comes home in the same state, we’re all in trouble.
On the matter of the murder, that thing that brought me to court in the first place, we learned nothing. Charges have not been laid in the case of the murder.