There is No Real Justice

scalesThirty-two years. That’s how much time has passed between the murder of a seventeen-year-old girl and the point at which her killer came to trial. It’s been a long wait.

As I write this blog post, attorneys have finished closing arguments and the jury is deliberating. Unfortunately, those twelve individuals face this task without even knowing about the second murder, another girl the same defendant is alleged to have killed. Biological evidence left at both crime scenes provides incontrovertible linkage between the same man and two dead girls. Since the two crimes are separated in time, they will be tried as separate events.

There’s a slight relief in that decision because if the defendant somehow convinces this jury that he is not guilty of murder, perhaps the second trial will succeed. Juries are fallible – people tasked with making a difficult decision based on the evidence presented in court. The truth is not always revealed but I know the verdict I’m hoping to hear.

I’m not going to offer details of the crime because enough has been taken from my friend and her family. The events of her death are not my story to tell. I choose to remember her as a vibrant young woman, not the victim she appears in the news articles. She lost her life. Her parents lost a daughter. Her sister lost her best friend. Her nephew lost his auntie. The world lost a beautiful human being.flower cross

But, in truth, she wasn’t lost was she?

No, she was taken from us. Stolen. Ripped from the fabric of her life, and ours. For more than three decades we’ve been denied her companionship, her smile, her laughter, the children she might have born, the grandchildren she would have cherished. An immeasurable number of mundane and golden moments that never happened…

Murder destroys families, damages communities, shatters the continuity of life in such a manner that the pieces can never be made whole again. In the end, there are only victims. The men who ended my friend’s life set in motion a series of self-destructive actions. Even killers are loved by someone – his family lost a child too on that long-ago day – it just took much longer for that body to hit the floor.

walk awayI’m glad the case is closed. There was a time when this resolution might have brought a certain degree of peace – the mythical closure that people talk about on television shows – but I can’t say I believe that now. Death happens. As a part of the lifecycle, I know everyone dies, but the empty space left behind by murder fills in differently. The ground is uneven, the footing treacherous with weak spots. Like a field filled with old bomb craters, that hard-won stability wears away over time, eroding into a mess of darkness and questions.

You get on with your life and you’re grateful and guilty about doing so. But you don’t ever really leave it behind. No matter the outcome of the court case, there is no real justice for a life taken. There is no way to make the past right. The dead are still gone.

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  1. #1 by patriciasands on March 21, 2015 - 6:00 pm

    Lesann, I’m so sorry your life was touched by such a tragedy. Your post is poignant, meaningful and sadly accurate. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • #2 by Lesann Berry on March 22, 2015 - 10:45 am

      Thanks, Patricia. Some experiences touch us more than others, I guess. There’s such a sense of loss involved with this situation and it just continues to resonate. I’m reminded at every milestone in life that she isn’t here to experience it for herself and the ripple effect of that saddens me each time.

  2. #3 by RK on March 26, 2015 - 7:42 am

    Amen. Thanks for writing down your thoughts on grief and loss. I’ve come to feel that the connections that bind us become part of us. When someone dies part of us dies with them. But thankfully part of them lives on with us too. So at least there’s that.

    • #4 by Lesann Berry on March 28, 2015 - 7:08 pm

      I agree, RK. And the idea that a part of them lives on with us is something we shouldn’t dismiss. Of course it isn’t the same but as long as our memories continue, so do those we have lost along the way. I may not like how the philosophers phrase it but there’s something to all that living your life means experiencing all the ups and downs. Or, maybe that was a song from the 70s….

  3. #5 by chupie on March 26, 2015 - 12:49 pm

    Brilliant piece. It touches on so many things we don’t really talk about. Like closure. Like idea that once someone’s brought to justice– it closed, over, maybe even healed. While it may be a relief, it’s not a cure all. I think it’s important to try not to let the people who take what isn’t theirs to take more from us–but it’s not easy…

    • #6 by Lesann Berry on March 28, 2015 - 7:13 pm

      I like your reference to a “cure” because it feels like mostly what we do is address the symptoms because that’s all we can do. I also agree that it’s critical to not let the bad guys take away any more than we can avoid. So, there’s no justice and no closure, but there is a sense of at least that part is over. I’ll take that as a positive.

  4. #7 by Lynne Ford on April 2, 2015 - 1:57 pm

    Prayers for love, comfort, a calmer peace, and knowing your friend is smiling now for the dedication given, going for you, them, and theirs… I also pray for an insightful jury/judge, the maximum available punishment to be given and the salvation for the horror of a person/s who committed all the devastation in so many beautiful lives. I am thankful that you are such a good voice for the positive and are expressing what many need to help with the healing aspect of these type of traumas… God Bless you.

    • #8 by Lesann Berry on April 7, 2015 - 9:09 pm

      Thank you for the kind words, Lynne. The jury didn’t deliberate long and they did return a guilty verdict on all counts, including capital murder. If nothing else it is good to know that the defendant will no longer prey on the unwary. I do ear that as time passes additional charges may be levied at his feet because he had far too many years to continue victimizing others. No more though and that’s a good thing. I appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment.

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