May it please the Court. It is one of life's ironies that I appear before
the Court for the reason that I do. But I do so to represent my dad -- who
is not here -- and his wife, and daughters. His family, my family. More
than anything else, I do this to honor him, because if the roles were reversed,
he would be standing here today. Of this I am certain. I also owe this to
the other victims of violent crime who either stand silently by, or who
speak and are not heard. I owe it to the public. I owe it, as well, to Donald
and Cedric Coleman, who may yet not understand the magnitude of the losses
they inflicted on the night of April 19.
Words seem trite in describing what follows when your husband is murdered in your presence, when your father is stripped from your life. The horror, the agony, the emptiness, the despair, the chaos, the confusion, the sense -- perhaps temporary, but perhaps not -- that one's life no longer has any purpose, the doubt, the hopelessness. There are no words that can possibly describe it, and all it entails. But being the victim of a violent crime such as this is at least these things. Exactly these things in my family's case; the equivalent of these things in the countless other cases.
While it is happening and in the seconds and the minutes thereafter. . .
... it's the sheer horror of half-clothed people with guns storming up your driveway toward you in the dark of night, when you are totally defenseless.
... it's what must be the terrifying realization that you are first about to be, and then actually being, murdered.
... it's perhaps seeing in your last moment what in your mind you know was the murder of your wife.
... it's crawling on the floor of your own garage in the grease and filth, pretending you're dead, so that you won't be shot through the head by the person who just murdered your husband.
... it's realizing your husband has been gunned down in your driveway on your return from the final class you needed to complete your education -- an education that had been the goal of both of you since the day you were married.
... it's knowing that the reason that your husband was with you -- indeed, the reason that you were in the car that night at all -- is that his Christmas gift to you the previous year was the promise that you could take the class and that he would take you to and from, so that nothing would happen to you.
... it's mercilessly punishing yourself over whether you could have done something, anything at all, to have stopped the killing.
Moments later, across a continent...
... it's being frightened out of your mind in the middle of the night by a frantic banging on your door -- calling the police, then canceling the call -- and then answering the door. Your body goes limp as you see one of your best friends standing in the doorway. No words need even be spoken. For you know that the worst in life has happened. Then, he tells you: "Your mom just called. Father was murdered in the driveway of your home."
... it's realizing that, at that very moment, the man you have worshipped all your life is lying on his back in your driveway with two bullets through his head.
Across the globe. . .
... it's your husband taking the emergency international call, pulling down the receiver, fumbling for the words, as he starts to deliver the news. "This is the hardest thing I will ever have to tell you," he begins. Then, it is the calls home, or at least to what used to be home, first one, then the other. In eerie, stunned calmness, you hear your mother utter the feared confirmation:
"Yes, your dad was just murdered. You better come home." Now you believe.
Within hours. . .
... it's arriving home to television cameras in your front yard, to see your house cordoned off by police lines; police conducting ballistics and forensics tests, and studying the place in the driveway where your father had finally fallen dead -- all as if it were a set from a television production.
... it's going down to the store where your dad had always shopped for clothes, to buy a shirt, a tie that will match his suit, and a package of three sets of underwear (you can only buy them in sets of three) so your dad will look nice when he is buried.
... it's being called by the funeral home and told that it recommends that the casket be closed and that perhaps your mom, sister, and wife should not see the body -- and you know why, without even asking.
... it's walking into the viewing room at the funeral home and having your sister cry out that that just can't be him, it just can't be.
In the days that follow . . .
... it's living in a hotel in your own hometown, blocks away from where you have lived your whole life, because you just can't bear to go back.
... it's packing up the family home, item by item, memory by memory, as if all of the lives that were there only hours before are no more.
... it's reading the letters from you, your sister, and your wife, that your dad secreted away in his most private places, unbeknownst to you, realizing that the ones he invariably saved were the ones that just said "thanks" or "I love you." And really understanding for the first time that that truly was all that he ever needed to hear or to receive in return, just as he always told you.
... it's carefully folding each or your husband's shirts, as you have always done, so that they will be neat when they are given away.
... it's watching your mother do this, in your own mind begging her to stop.
... it's cleaning out your dad's sock drawer, his underwear drawer, his ties.
... it's packing up your dad's office for him, from the family picture to the last pen and pencil.
... it's reading the brochures in his top drawer about the fishing trip you and he were to take in two months -- the trip that your mother had asked you to go on because it meant so much to your dad.
In the weeks thereafter. . .
... it's living in absolute terror, not knowing who had murdered your husband and tried to murder you, but realizing that often such people come back to complete the deed, and wondering if they would return this time.
... it's furiously writing down the license number of every Ford Probe for no reason other than it was a Ford Probe, hoping that through serendipity, it might be, and sometimes fearing, that that is exactly what might happen.
... it's never spending another night in your own home because the pain is too great and the memories too fresh.
... it's all day every day, and all night, racking your brain to the point of literal exhaustion over who possibly could have done this. It's questioningly looking in the corners of every relationship, to the point that, at times, you are almost ashamed of yourself. Yet you have no choice but to continue, because, as they say, it could be anyone.
... it's thinking the unthinkable, that perhaps the act was in retaliation for something you had done in your job. You ask yourself, "If it was, should I just walk away?"
... it's watching the re-enactment of your dad's, your husband's murder on television, day and night, and every time you pick up the newspaper.
... it's reading the "wanted" poster for the people who murdered him, while checking out at the grocery store.
... it's telling your family night after night that it will be all right, when you don't believe it yourself.
Then they are finally found, and. . .
... it's collapsing on the kitchen floor when you are told -- not from relief, but from the ultimate despair in learning that your husband was indeed killed for nothing but a car, and in an act so random as to defy comprehension.
... it's watching your mother collapse on the floor when she hears this news and knowing that she will not just have to relive the fateful night in her own mind, now she will have to relive it in public courtrooms, over and over again, for months on end.
In the months that follow. . .
... it's putting the family home up for sale and being told that everyone thinks it is beautiful, but they just don't think they could live there, because a murder took place in the driveway.
... it's the humiliation of being told by the credit card companies, after they closed your husband's accounts because of his death, that they are unable to extend you credit because you are not currently employed.
... it's receiving an anonymous call that begins, "I just learned of the brutal carjacking and murder of your father," and that ends by saying. "I only wish your mother had been raped and murdered, too."
... it's the crushing anxiety of awaiting the trauma and uncertainties of public trials.
The day arrives, and. . .
... it's listening, for the first time, to the tape of your mother's 911 call to report that her husband, your father, had been murdered. Hearing the terror in her voice. Catching yourself before you pass out from the shock of knowing that, through that tape, you are present at the very moment it all happened.
... it's hearing the autopsy report on how the bullets entered your father's skull, penetrated and exited his brain, and went through his shoulder and arm.
... it's listening to testimony as to how long he might have been conscious, and thus aware of what was happening -- not just to him but to the woman that he had always said he would give his life for.
... it's looking at the photographs of your dad lying in the driveway in a pool of blood, as they are projected on a large screen before your friends and family, and before what might as well be the whole world.
... it's having to ask your son what the expression was on your husband's face.
... it's listening to a confession in which the person says that he just thought your dad was "playing possum."
... it's listening to your own mother, a lady of ultimate grace, testify publicly as to how she crawled under the car, in the grease and the filth, to avoid being murdered.
... it's hearing her say that the only thing she could think of was what it was going to be like to be shot through the back of the head.
... it's watching her face as she relives that night, time and again.
As the trauma of the trial subsides. . .
... it's getting down on your hands and knees and straightening your dad's new grave marker and packing the fresh dirt around it, so that it will be perfect, as he always insisted that things be for you.
... it's sitting across from each other at Thanksgiving dinner, each knowing that there is but one thing on the other's mind, yet pretending otherwise for their sake.
... it's telling your wife that the meat was great, when you could barely keep it down and hardly wait to finish.
... it's trying to pick out a Christmas gift for your mother that your dad would have picked out for her.
... it's sitting beside your father's grave into the night in 30-degree weather, so that he won't be alone on the first Christmas.
... it's putting up, by yourself, the basketball goal that you got last Christmas so that you and your dad could relive memories as you passed the years together.
... it's finishing by yourself all of the projects that you have not an idea how to do, and that your dad had said, "Save for the summer and we'll do them together. I'll show you how."
... it's hearing your 2-year-old daughter ask for "Pawpaw" and seeing your wife choke back the tears and tell her, "He's gone now, he's in heaven."
... it's having the clothes your dad was most proud of altered, so you can wear them in his honor.
... it's wondering whether your wearing the clothes will be too painful for your mother.
In the larger sense. . .
... it's shaking every time you drive into a darkened driveway.
... it's feeling your body get rigid every time that you drive into a garage.
... it's being nervous every time you walk to your car, even in the open daylight.
... it's being scared to answer any phone call or any knock at the door at night (or, for that matter, during the day) because another messenger may be calling.
Finally, it's the long-term effects. .
. ... it's the inexplicable sense of embarrassment when you tell someone that your husband or your father was murdered -- almost a sense of guilt over injecting ugliness into their lives.
... it's going out to dinner alone, knowing that you will be going out alone the rest of your life.
... it's that feeling -- wrong, but inevitable -- that you will always be the fifth wheel.
... it's living the rest of your life with the fact that your husband, your father, suffered one of the most horrifying deaths possible.
... it's never knowing, yet fearing that you know all too well, what those final moments must have been like.
... it's constantly visualizing yourself in his place that night, moment by excruciating moment.
... it's realizing that you will never even get the chance to repay your dad for making your dreams come true.
... it's living with the uncomfortable irony that he lived just long enough to see to it that your dreams came true, but that his never will.
... it's knowing you never had, and will never have, that one last time to say thanks for giving me, first, life itself, and then, all that it holds.
And. . .
... it's knowing that this is only the beginning and the worst is yet to come.
... The haunting images.
... The emptiness.
... The loneliness.
... The directionlessness.
... The sickening sense that it all ended some time ago, and that you are but biding time.
Of course, for my mother, my sister, my wife and I, the sun will come up again, but it will never come up again for the real victim of this crime. Not only will he never see what he worked a lifetime for, and was finally within reach of obtaining. That would be tragedy enough. But, even worse, he died knowing that the only thing that ever could have ruined his life had come to pass -- that his wife and his family might have to suffer the kind of pain that is now ours -- and he was helpless to prevent it even as he saw its inevitability. We live by law in this county so that, ideally, no one will ever have to know what it is like to be a victim of such violent crime. If I had any wish, any wish in the world, it would be that no one ever again would have to go through what my mother and my father experienced on the night of April 19, what my family has endured since and must carry with us the rest of our lives. Crimes such as that committed against my family are intolerable in any society that calls itself not only free, but civilized. The law recognizes as much, and it provides for punishment that will ensure at least that others will not suffer again at the same hands, even if it does not prevent recurrence at the hands of others. On behalf of my dad, and on behalf of my mother and family, I respectfully request that these who committed this brutal crime receive the full punishment that the law provides. Three people were needed to complete this crime. Each of the three was as instrumental to its success as the other. There were no passive bystanders among the gang that executed my dad. Thank you, Your Honor.
Reprinted with permission from Judge Michael Luttig.
Thanks to a concerned citizen, Howard LaMont, for bringing this to our attention.
(reprinted from the Washington Accountant)
TEXAS CLEARINGHOUSE BBS