Patterico's Pontifications

3/9/2006

The Aftermath of a Murder Conviction

Filed under: Crime — Patterico @ 7:05 am



The Los Angeles Times reports from Compton: Gang Member Convicted in Slaying of Student:

A gang member was convicted Wednesday of killing a 15-year-old girl as she left Locke High School last March.

Dejuan Hines, 18, who was shooting at someone else, was convicted in Los Angeles County Superior Court of one count of murder and one count of attempted murder in the death of Deliesh Allen-Roberts.

Relatives of the slain girl called the verdict a “bittersweet victory.”

“I’m glad he was found guilty of a crime, but it’s tragic and the circumstances in which it happened, foolish,” said the girl’s aunt, Candacy Roberts. “I’m torn. Here is another young black man with a wasted life.”

I’m fairly certain I saw the aftermath of this verdict yesterday. Yesterday morning a friend told me he was finishing a murder case on the same floor where I have been doing a trial. As far as I know, that’s the only murder case that was currently being tried in the building.

At the end of the court day, I left my court and saw an entire family bawling in the hallway. It was obviously the defendant’s family in my friend’s case, reacting to a guilty verdict. There was a mother, a father, and I think 3 or 4 children, mostly girls. A couple of the children appeared to be under 10. Someone whom I took to be their mother tried to reassure them: “It’s not over!”

It broke my heart.

When criminals commit crimes, they hurt (or, in this case, kill) a victim — but when they get caught, they also hurt their families. I always feel the worst for the victim and the victim’s family — especially in a murder case! — but I also, very often, feel very sad for the defendant’s family.

In cases I try, I am always polite to the defendant’s family, and more often than not, they are polite to me. They understand I’m just doing my job. But you can tell they’re hurting.

I wish criminals would think about their families when deciding whether to commit a crime.

UPDATE: Turns out it was a different friend’s murder case, being tried on the same floor as my case and the other murder case. (I had thought there was only one murder case currently on trial in the building, but there were actually two. The jury is still out on the other one.) Speaking with my friend today, I confirmed that it was indeed the defendant’s family who was crying, and it was the case described above in the L.A. Times story.

20 Responses to “The Aftermath of a Murder Conviction”

  1. Good post Pat.

    What were they (the criminal) thinking? I think in most cases they weren’t. Imagine your child or a sibling was similarly guilty of a terrible crime. In a way it would be worse than their death – at least if they died you could put a wall around that part of your life in your mind and try to achieve some sort of detached resolution or closure. Instead in a situation like this the family gets to experience this every day. For the rest of their lives. Every phone call or letter, every news story about a similar crime, any number of keys just rip it open again.

    And that’s not even the crime victim or their family.

    Dwilkers (a1687a)

  2. As a prosecutor, I’m glad you react with compassion for the victim, the victim’s family, and the defendant’s family. I think that shows great character on your part. It also saddens me to hear the victim’s mother say “It’s not over.” That implies she felt the verdict was unjust.

    Every so often, you hear of a case where the defendant’s family apologizes to the victim/victim’s family after the trial and sometimes even before or during the trial. Instead of “Why are you hurting my poor (defendant) child?”, their reaction is “We are sorry our child hurt your child.” The modern justice system focuses completely on the defendant – and with good reason because it is the defendant’s trial – but too often the defendant and his/her family take that to heart and forget the victim.

    DRJ (3c8cd6)

  3. Or, they could be from Philadelphia, where someone got to the family of one of the witnesses against two (alleged) killers, on trial for the murder of a child who was simply unfortunate enough to be in the way of a gun battle in which at least ninety rounds were fired — near a middle school.

    The witness can no longer remember what she saw two years ago, even when presented with her previous statements to the police, now that her father has coached her to simply say, “I don’t remember.”

    Dana (3e4784)

  4. P.
    Sitting with my son, a High School sophomore, reflecting on life, we started the “What do you want to do with your life” discussion.
    Lawyer came up. It came up a few minutes after I read your post. I had my son read it and you know, it changed his [and my] entire perspective of your profession.
    I noted the same tone in your ‘voice’ that that I heard in mine when describing pain and suffering of a different sort.
    Thanks, some more scales fell from my eyes.

    paul (3370f7)

  5. Whenever someone asks about my family, I tell them (along with bragging about my my sister’s lives) that my brother is a lawyer in Southern California and that I am very proud of him.

    He just confirmed to the many that read this blog why I feel that way.

    Brotherico (41d24a)

  6. I find guilty verdicts very very sombering. Although I might be pleased with what I believe is a correct result, there’s rarely anything to truly “celebrate.” I always feel for the victim, and/or the victim’s family, and the pain or suffering they have gone through. But I also feel for the defendant and his family and what this, typically, impulsive action has wrought upon all who are involved and the hardships they all will have to endure for such an “unthinking” act. If you don’t have these feelings then I don’t believe you should be a prosecutor. We’re not in the courts to exact revenge — an emotion which would bring on a celebration after a guilty verdict — we are duty bound to seek justice. There is no celebrating when justice is done.

    MOG (4d4be8)

  7. Dana —
    What is described in your linked post occurs in every courthouse in L.A. County every day.

    Patterico can attest to that.

    MOG (4d4be8)

  8. When I hear or read about murder trials, I, too, try to figure out what they were thinking. And I always hurt for the mother of the death row inmate, not because I don’t think the murderer is worthy of death, but because, as a mother, I know that they are always your babies, no matter how old they are. So the family of this defendant will still grieve, wondering what on earth happened to their kid, where they went wrong, etc. It is heartening to know that prosecutors still understand that human side of the law.

    sharon (e51965)

  9. I would have (some) sympathy for the family if there was evidence that they had tried to do the the right thing before this all happened. How hard did they try to keep their soon-to-be-a-murderer from joining a street gang? Did they put the fear of God into him, as many families do in order to keep their kids from joining gangs? He was all of 18, yet reported to be a former student – how much effort did they put into trying to keep him in school, into sending him off to college, to enrolling him a trade school? Did they push him to get a real job… any job, so long as it was legal? Did they take him down to the local military recruiter? Did they pack up and move out of the area, to someplace where gangs and violence were just a tad less prevalent?

    Maybe they tried to do the right thing, maybe they didn’t. Maybe they sat back and helped him spend the money he got from whatever illegal activities he was involved with.

    God knows trying to do the right thing isn’t always enough. But there are enough good people in this country who have bad things happen to them and their families – often despite their best efforts to keep that from happening – that I don’t have much sympathy – heck, I have next to none – left for those who do nothing but moan and complain when something bad happens.

    Maybe, just maybe, had his family spent as much time crying and worrying about him before he went and shot that girl, then this whole sad scene could have very well be prevented.

    I think I’ll save all of my sympathy in this case for the family of the victim.

    steve sturm (e37e4c)

  10. I am there. Married to woman whose son is now in prison for getting drunk and doing something stupid. The devastation she feels is difficult to deal with. The drunken mistake will stay with him for the rest of his life and we all know that except, maybe, him.

    Rick

    Rick Caird (7959ef)

  11. Steve, I can’t claim to be the perfect father, but I do try. So far my daughters have made me proud, but, as Rick noted just above, one stupid mistake, possibly fueled by alcohol, could ruin everything.

    It’s easier to feel sorry for the families of the victims, to be sure, but the families of the criminals aren’t necessarily all thugs themselves. Is it so hard to imagine that a mother would want to see her son get off, even if she knew he was a murderer?

    Dana (dd8e7e)

  12. Dana: you said the magic word: you try. It makes a whole lot of difference.

    steve sturm (d3e296)

  13. “I wish criminals would think about their families when deciding whether to commit a crime.”

    If they had any concern about other people at all, they wouldn’t end up being criminals. Plus, you have to really wonder how their families could let it get this bad?

    [I’m talking largely about distraught children here. — P]

    Another Drew (8018ee)

  14. Plus, you have to really wonder how their families could let it get this bad?

    ?

    Harry Arthur (b318a5)

  15. What if [God save me] it does ‘take a village’ to HELP raise a child? Not that the village will enter into every aspect of your family life but rather, to hold a hard line against the lesser infractions of societal laws and norms? There was a letter going around about the changing problems of teachers. How ‘talking out of turn’ and ‘chewing gum in class’ were the big problems ‘back then’ and now guns and rape are. Can we stem this tide by a ‘broken windows’ [a la Guliani and NY] type of enforcement on the children?
    My own personal experience [which I’ll hold to keep it to the point.] leans toward accepting this concept. But what about you folks in the trenches, Like P who see this stuff day-in-day-out?

    paul (3370f7)

  16. Paul, the “big problems” of the past were minor things, because kids normally came to school with some sense of discipline that had been socialized into them by their parents and families. When I was in school, if you got a spanking in school, you knew that you were going to get it again, and worse, from your father when he got home. Try that today, and the mother and her unemployed live-in boyfriend are going to be rubbing their hands with glee at the amount that they’ll get from suing the school.

    We complain about the public schools today, but teachers today are doing the best they can just to control the classroom; the things that were handled, easily and quickly, forty years ago, cannot be handled today.

    The one thing people don’t want to admit is that the problem with the public schools isn’t the teachers, but the students. And the students are the problem because their parents didn’t rear them right.

    Dana (3e4784)

  17. Oh, I think there’s a few problem teachers too, not to mention Teacher Unions. Students and their parents are a big part of the overall problem as well, but let’s not prematurely limit our focus. There’s plenty of blame go around. The problems with public schools have been in the making for at least 40 years.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  18. The defendant to take some responsibility? The family to recognize any of their own possible shortcomings??

    Why? They all have someone easier to focus the blame — the public defender.

    nosh (d8da01)

  19. Perhaps their parents should have raised them not to kill people? Especially if they are only 18.

    jvarisco (2c5028)

  20. my brother was forced to be from that fucking gang someone put a gun to his head and hit him in the face just because he was wearing pink so be for you fucking white cracker want to judge someone make sure you check your fucking crazy ass kids backpack before they go to school and kill 25 people and there sick fucking self before THEY made him be from a gang he had never had criminal record we caLLED THE POLICE ALOT OF TIME TELLING THEM THAT THE GUYS OVER THERE WAS MESSING WITH HE BUT THEY DIDNT DO SHIT ABOUT IT WE HAD TO STAND UP TO THEM OUR SELF WOMANS AND KIDS THEY CAME TO MY MOTHERS HOUSE IT WAS SUROUNDED BY GUYS WITH GUNS THE POLICE CAME AND DID NOTHING MY LITTLE BROTHER THAT I LOVE WITH ALL OF MY HEART COULD NOT EVEN GO TO SCHOOL BECAUSE THEY WOULD COME UP TO THE SCHOOL WITH A GUN AND WE ARE THE ONES WHO HAD TO RISK ARE LIVES EVERY DAY GOING TO GET HIM IT WAS NEVER ANY GUARDS,STAFF ARE ANYONE ELSE AT THE BACK GATE. THAT WAS NOT THE ONLY THING THAT HAPPENED AT THAT SCHOOL A GIRL GOT SHOT IN THE LEG BY SOMEONE BUT YOU DID NOT HEAR ABOUT THAT ON THE NEWS SINCERLY STARLETTA HINES AND FAMILY YOU CAN OUR NATURAL BLACK ASSES AND GO TO HELL MY BROTHER WILL BE FREE ONE DAY CAUSE GOD KNOWS WHAT REALLY HAPPEND

    starletta hines (60f1f0)


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