Last week, I had the opportunity to do something I’d never done before. I attended a murder trial. When a friend asked me to accompany her to the trial for the man accused of murdering her nephew, I gladly agreed. The trial was held at the Cook County Criminal Court Building at 26th and California. Going there is an additional reality check in how much mayhem is going on in our society, as one only has to look at the pages and pages of printouts on who is on trial and for what reason.
Sitting in the courtroom on the side with the victim’s family were people from court advocacy. The defendant had his grandmother who had put her building up as collateral for both his attorney and bond money. The defendant sat in the court wearing a suit that looked so new I could still see the price tag marks on it. He looked like he should have been a young man starting out in the world of business as opposed to, perhaps, a young fool trying to get off for murdering another human being.
I couldn’t stay with the family the entire time the jury was in deliberation. But during the time I was with them, their pain of losing the only son/brother in the family was visible. When I asked my friend about the attitude of the defendant during the entire trial, she said he was cocky. He got to speak and see his relatives during the court proceedings while my friend’s family got to see the horrific crime scene photos.
The defendant got to pass notes to his family via his attorney. My friend’s family got to hold on to each other in support as each day of the trial dragged on. Later in the evening, my friend sent me a text message. The defendant was found guilty. When I spoke with her, I asked what the reaction of the defendant and his family was to the verdict. She said they had moaned and wept. The prosecutors were asking for a sentence of 45 years. The defendant is 23, which mean he would be 68 years old when he got out of jail.
Hearing that news reminded me of a video I had posted on my Facebook page. A young man in Wisconsin, Seandell Jackson, was accused of killing a college student during a robbery. He, too, during his trial had been cocky. But unlike in Illinois, Seandell’s trial had been televised. The cameras caught him sneering at the victim’s family. The judge in that Wisconsin case didn’t believe for one second that Seandell was really sorry for what he had done. So she sentenced him to life in prison without a chance for parole. Seandell’s reaction was to fall out in court, astonished that at age 19 he had forever lost his freedom.
Although the state of Illinois doesn’t allow our court cases to be televised, I think that the law should be changed to mandate that all verdicts and sentencing be taped and televised. Why? Because our young people put on the attitude and behavior as if they are so tough. Then as soon as they’re hit with the reality sentence of life in prison, they break down like the wimps they truly are. It would be very interesting to be able to watch the same urban terrorists who cause and maintain havoc react to their sentences. Their bravado is given a dose of reality as they are led away to be incarcerated forever.
Why should the defendants get to have privacy at that point in the trial? If they wimp out at their verdict hearing and the world knows it, what will be the reaction of their fellow inmates, having “punked out” at sentencing?
We are currently in a desperate time, which calls for creative measures to help stem the tide of killings. Allowing the entire world the ability to see those defendants react to their verdicts and sentencing might cause some of our young people to stop and think twice before engaging in criminal activity. And if nothing else, the family of the victim they can take solace in watching the perpetrator get sentenced over and over again.
P.S.: I want to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the real men who have stood up and taken care of their children. And to the males who conceived children they have abandoned, ignored, and disregarded, I know your hell awaits you.