As someone who recently buried a loved one, I have come to terms with a certain truth (at least to me): the dead are at peace, it is those who are left behind who are tormented until they address the unfinished business involving the dead.
I am calm, clear and resolved. What might cause a jury of peers to determine that justice was irrelevant? Maybe it was the listless, lackadaisical, asinine, presumptuous, lazy, uninspired prosecution’s failure to deliver a convincing case even for manslaughter. All they had to prove was that the individual committed an act that caused the death of another individual. No intent. No layers of history. Just “Did this person kill someone?”.
Which brings us to a mitigating factor for manslaughter: provocation, where it can be proven that the party who was killed somehow engaged in behavior that caused the other to harm them. Did this person do something that caused the other to engage with lethal force?
Apparently, while many of us were in tune with absurdity of not considering that someone who was rightfully walking home from the store, at night, in a place where he was a welcome guest, and was followed by an unknown, menacing man, might find himself baffled at first, then terrified when this man unlawfully engages him in combat without provocation, there seem to be many others who are not. Envision this: you’re minding your business walking down the street and a creepy person who is obviously not the police approaches you, you may run or you may fight. You may be appalled that this is even happening. Who is this and why me? And you fight. And you die. But it is because you fight that this individual can say he killed you out of fear of his life–the very life he endangered by inserting himself aggressively into yours.
All of this is open to interpretation. It was the prosecution’s job to fine tune and shape this interpretation–to hammer it into the jury and out of each and every witness. Yet, it seems, that even the prosecution didn’t have the heart for it from the very beginning. Might it have been some feedback loop of believing the case wasn’t winnable and therefore not bothering to attempt to make it so? Or maybe it was something more insidious like the prosecution connecting more with the aggressor than the victim? That might account for countless opportunities to prove that all that could be done to win was done were so carelessly–almost handily–and summarily discarded: 1. Jury selection 2. Witness preparation 3. Cross examination 4. Failure to paint the accused as the menace he was at least to the person who died even if he was not considered that in his community and countless other slippages.
The prosecution may not have cared. They may not have tried. They may have been altogether to sympathetic to the accused’s plight considering that they are called to defend the same actions when they are attributed to the police. They may not have had it in them. The ball was never dropped. It was allow to roll away and deflate in a corner.
But yes, back to unfinished business. The dead are free or at least no longer concerned about what is here. Those who are a left behind are charged with tying the loose ends of the dead or face torment when they are unable.
These are the loose ends that keep are currently keeping me away:
- May Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin mitigate the loss of their child and the disregard of the prosecution and, ultimately, the justice system with a wrongful death suit that will deprive the man who blotted out their son’s light of the money he has amassed through his infamy. May he find no peace in any corner and may restitution haunt his soul requiring a balance he will endeavor to but can never repay. May the parents of one lost so suddenly and unceremoniously extract every single ounce of what each and every one of those days that led up to 17 years might have been worth. May they avail themselves of passionate, compassionate, brilliant, indomitable counsel that will be the gladiators for justice that they were not afforded in the criminal case. May they comfort themselves with an accounting of who their son could have been and see it reflected by the one that took that life as his spends his life paying for that life.
- May you stop–even in the midst of your sadness–wistfully and smugly comforting yourself with statements that you knew this was going to happen because things are so unjust when it comes to matters of the brown in the US. Being resigned to hopelessness breeds hopelessness. It also makes you believe you are doing something when you are doing nothing but sighing into the wind when you could actually change the direction of the wind.
- May the anger, sorrow, hurt disappointment for those affected by the end of this chapter be a lesson that grows into transformation. We are not helpless. Our fear of helplessness, after it stops choking us, leads to complacency brought on by the resignation that things will never change. Your boldest weapon is hope. Your boldest charge is to think and act in ways that will change the shape of existence. May you be up for it.
- May we have the compassion to understand that others do not see what we see and have victory in this ending. Vengeance is not yours nor does it bring back the dead. It is a frenzy that knows no end or satisfaction. May you be gracious knowing hate causes only you to suffer. May you find solace in the way you reshaped the world for innocents. May you stand your ground.