03/31/18 — Justice, not blame: A solution to this epidemic requires shared perspectives

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Justice, not blame: A solution to this epidemic requires shared perspectives

You do this job long enough, it starts to come home with you.

You get to know the people you report on. You try, near as you can, to put yourself in the person's shoes and see things from your subject's perspective, to understand not just what he or she thinks, but why.

Covering sports, city and county government, education, community and human interest -- in those instances you can have success with the aforementioned. You can also fail. And sometimes that frustration indeed follows you home or sends you to the nearest watering hole.

At times you're kicking your shins for your own sins, other times it's for the sins of the subject in your story -- you didn't like it but you had to write it straight. And that bitter taste lasts.

The one set of shoes -- speaking solely from individual experience -- that never seems to fit no matter how you shift or squirm or squint to see through that person's lens, are those of the mother of a murder victim.

Impossible. You go from hearing their inconsolable shrieks of unparalleled misery before ever seeing their tear-filled faces. When the crowd around the crime scene parts and you see her, slumped over her son or daughter's lifeless body, awash in the blue and red lights, the crime scene tape and the evidence markers dotting the landscape identifying spent shell casings, a discarded item of clothing, a hat that fell off the victim's head in the final steps of a fruitless attempt at escape.

Days or weeks later in her livingroom, on the same couch she sat for years on with her child, to months or sometimes years down the road, on the steps of the courthouse or silent in the back of the elevator. A loved one stroking her hand in the pews of the courtroom minutes before the verdict. Then, that shriek that still pierces your dreams at night is repeated, only slightly more muted this time and followed by another, similar but also not quite as gut wrenching -- this one coming from the mother of the accused.

Two lives are now lost.

For the families of the victims whose murders go unsolved, there is no muffling the cries, no sense -- no matter how small -- of muted suffering in knowing their child's killer is identified and being held to account.

The blame, understandably then, begins to shift to the police who must be listless, lazy or inept. To the friends of the lost child, never fully trusted before and now less so -- surely they know something. To the cousin, father, uncle, neighbor, whoever he or she was with last or on the way to see prior to the killing.

But none of the mislaid blame satisfies. Regardless of who knows what or what they won't say, nothing equates to the rage directed at the anonymous being who pulled the trigger, inserted the knife or who strangled the life out of that mother's child's body.

There are a number of people getting together Tuesday for whom this isn't a story. Their shoes won't ever fit our feet, nor will they ever be completely be removed from their own.

But consider, before hearing what they might say out of frustration, anger, fatigue, grief and desperation, how they must be feeling inside. And if you know something, anything that might help them find relief in the justice our however-broken system might abide them, speak up.

Published in Editorials on March 31, 2018 9:41 PM