Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"There's zero closure"

This one's going to piss some people off. For that I apologize, and I issue a couple of disclaimers right up front:

1. My family has a large number of current and former police officers in it. You will look far and wide before you find someone who respects and admires cops as much as I do. I have no patience for the people -- most of them young, but not all -- who disparage peace officers,  who call them names, and who think they're all jerks.

2. I have a great deal of sympathy for the family of slain Sgt. Ryan Russell. It's not going to sound like it in a minute or two, so I want to get that out right now and underline it: I sympathize with the Russells.  That family could have been mine on occasions beyond counting and it really is horrible to have to explain to a toddler that Daddy is never coming home.

However, the kinds of things Sgt. Russell's widow Christine is saying to the media give me pause. A great deal of pause. "There's zero closure in a verdict of not criminally responsible", she said, after the man who ran down her husband with a stolen snowplow. "I believe Ryan deserved a lot better than this," she said.

No doubt he did. Nobody deserves to die that way, least of all a peace officer who is serving and protecting the rest of us. But with all due respect, Mrs. Russell, you seem to have more of an issue with the verdict than you do with the death of your husband, and I find that unseemly.

What were you looking for? Guilt, I imagine, which would carry an automatic sentence of at least twenty five years in jail. Maybe you've fantasized bringing your husband's service piece to court and gunning the psycho down. Hell, I wouldn't blame you for having that thought. But the psycho who killed your husband was just that, a psycho. A person found to have an actual and acute mental illness. That's the only way that verdict, "not criminally responsible", can be rendered.

What happens to Kachkar, the psycho, now? He undergoes psychiatric assessment and he's placed in a facility until he is deemed not to be a threat to society. That could well be longer than twenty five years. That could well be the rest of his life.

Perhaps you disagree with the assessment that Kachkar was in a psychotic state at the time of the murder. This was argued in court, with psychiatrists testifying for and against. The jury found that the defendant was not "in touch with reality" when he committed the crime.

(Personally, I'm of the opinion that anyone who kills another human being is by definition mentally ill...but there are mental illnesses and mental illnesses. Kachkar was found to be -- what's the correct medical term I'm looking for? oh yeah --batshit insane.)

May I, again respectfully, suggest to Mrs. Russell that a guilty verdict, even one that carried the death penalty if such a thing actually still existed in this country, would not change the fact of your husband's tragic death in any way. No court of law can turn back time and bring the dead to life. I wish one could. I wish I could. But I can't.

And closure? There ain't no such thing. Not because of this verdict...because of the death. Death is all the closure we ever get in this life. It lingers. It lingers longer when there's love involved, as there clearly is here. It never goes away. Nobody is suggesting it should. But as with anything else "good" or "evil" in the world, what matters is not what's past, but what is next. 

You see a man who "got away with murder". I see a sick man who will now, as his defence lawyer says, get the help he needs. He wouldn't get that help in jail. Trust me on this. Jail is not about "help". And while you might not appreciate helping the monster who killed your husband, Mrs. Russell, without that help he might kill again.

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