Every day, people’s lives are shattered to pieces. Things are taken from us unexpectedly; loved ones, good health, and peace of mind. In the same breath, we’re given priceless rewards that compare to nothing else: the gift of a new life, falling in love, and being saved.
All around us, the world twists and turns with miracles, disasters, and amazing things that change us. Things that challenge us, uplift us, and often times will break us. My life has been filled with all of these things.
Before my accident and traumatic brain injury, I still held in my hands the innocent mentality of anything in this world being possible. Even though I battled with addiction and incredible burdens buried within me, my heart was still beating like a wild, free spirit.
You can never imagine trying to understand and make sense of doing something completely out of your character. Sitting on a stand and listening to complete strangers paint a picture of a “monster,” and knowing that your actions caused great pain in the lives of others. Today, my heart beats with immense grief and determination.
The balance of facts and the speaking of the truth should have been my ally. Allowing the facts to speak for themselves, truth and justice should have triumphed. However, when massive public sentiment or the sentiments and prejudices of my public defender (who secretly corroborated with the court), facts alone were simply not enough.
If there is one crime among all others where the benefit of the doubt is seldom given, it is those crimes such as mine. People do not respond with reason when the crime involves a child, which is entirely understandable. Emotions play an enormous role in any legal proceeding. The prosecutor knew this, all too well, when she adopted her dehumanizing attitude towards me. It is a trick as old as the hills; continually referring to me as a “monster” both in court and to the media. She entirely detached the sympathy which popular sentiment would otherwise have had. Even when someone is accused of murder, people will often pause and consider that the crime has to be proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, before it is believed.
In the case of a crime against a child, the worst is automatically assumed. I can understand the nobility of leaping to the defense of the defenseless and the innocent with so much persistence. However, when it goes beyond defense and starts becoming the ally of injustice; it has clearly gone too far.
To put my sentence in perspective and understand its severity, I’ll mention a neighbor of mine. Two doors down is one of Texas’ most infamous serial killers, “Henley”. In the early 1970’s, he assisted in the gruesome murders of 30 teenage boys. Both he and his accomplice received multiple life sentences for their roles in the crimes. Henley will come up for parole again this year; 21 years before I will ever set foot before the parole board.
The extreme amount of time for which I was sentenced was for a non-violent assault. There was no force, no rape, and the crime did not involve intercourse. This is the first time I had any problem with the law, and my sentence was beyond any normal explanation. My crime was classified as aggressive only because of age; my 99 year sentence is a seal on my fate and my freedom. This will be true until the facts of my case are presented to a jury instead of just a judge in 45 minutes.
You may wonder where a man finds hope, courage, and resilience when all that he has ever know and all that awaits him tomorrow feels like dust in the wind. It’s from within that place in each of us where we hold on to something treasured: our memories, our faith, our loved ones, and our dreams. It’s only when those things we treasure most remain, that we find the strength to face tomorrow and our next chapter maybe written.
This entry is dedicated to my dear friend, Herman, the magnificent story teller from South Africa.
Lake Livingston, Texas