Justice and mercy
For the last 8 months I've been trying to help a young man come to terms with what he did. Every Friday I drove for an hour to take a killer out for breakfast. We would talk about the things going on in our lives, family and friends, and the many things we had in common. The idea was to befriend him and help him through this process of remorse. I failed.
Two years ago a man named John drank five beers and three shots of whiskey and drove home. He some how ended up driving 14 miles north bound in the south bound lanes of I-35 just north of Austin Texas. After passing 120 cars (clipping the side of one) he kept driving til he collided with a man on a motorcycle, killing him. This wasn't just any man, he killed a three tour Army veteran on Veterans day. I didn't want to condemn him for the choices he made that night. That was to easy. He had never been in trouble before after all. I just wanted him to own up to the effect it had on so many lives.
I sat through his trial this week. I read the jury as he was giving testimony. I read the family of the victim as John's attorney was giving his closing arguments. I sat by John's mother and father while the prosecutor was making their final arguments. Mostly, I was reading John. I wanted to see true remorse. I wanted to see him break down that steel wall he put up. I did see him cry. I saw him being honest. There were times he understood what he had done. But when the case was over and we sat and talked while the jury deliberated, that wall was still there. More so, he had very little remorse. He was still trying to look for faults in others in order to minimize what he had done. The rest of his family was doing the same. I felt very sad that such a good Christian family couldn't see past themselves and empathize with the family of a good man who's life was cut short, as well as, all the people effected by his death. Many of them were in that court room. I want to say something to Mr. Turner, the man who's only son was taken, but nothing I could say would give him consolation. I left before the jury came back.
On the way back home, I drove down I-35. I wanted to find the exact spot where it happened. As I was driving, the lymph node in the right side of neck started to swell. I doubled back and parked at that spot. I thought it was further down the road, but I felt this was the right spot. Then I saw the X on the concrete barrier. The cops had put it there to indicate this was where the collision had happened. Then I saw the movie. I watched it from Dominick Turners' point of view. He was passing a truck and didn't see John's headlights until he was already in the lane. He instinctively tried to jump off the bike. He ended up flying through the air a good ways and died when he hit the pavement. He didn't panic, he didn't feel fear, he didn't suffer.
I don't have a point to make, or a lesson to learn here. I just needed a way to express the emotion of the day, and get it out. I'm sad that it had to happen this way. I saw a change in John. From the man he was that day to the man he is today. I wanted to facilitate that process until he got on his knees and cried begging for forgivness. I wanted to see true humility. I never did. I can't help but feel that I could have said more, or done something to make that happen. I feel like I failed him.
My motivation to help him came from a dream I had years ago. Long before I met John. It was so vivid and horrific that it stuck with me. After I met him, I realized, it was about him. I wanted to change the outcome so this dream didn't become a prophetic one. I was hoping I could keep it from happening. I never shared this with him, cause he would have thought I was kooky crazy. Maybe I should have. Maybe I should have described in detail his fate as I saw it. Maybe I said enough to change it. Maybe his fate was for him to change, and there was nothing I could do to stop it from happening. I just don't know.
He's in jail right now waiting to be taken to prison. He'll be there for at least 6 years and maybe 12. This will give him a chance to come to terms, or not, his choice. I'll still go visit and be there for him when he gets out. I can't help but think justice was done today. Tempered with mercy. After all one father still has a son, the other doesn't.