Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Going Public

“Not guilty.” It was over just like that. He wasn’t guilty, wasn’t responsible for Teresa’s murder, wasn’t responsible for the death of a mother of five. That was it. Everyone can go home.

After a week of trial, “not guilty” is what the jury said. Teresa died four years ago due to a gunshot wound to her head. The defense theory was that it was an accident because Teresa was “mental” and had tried to kill herself. She had been a victim of traumatic sexual abuse as a child and had suffered from various mental problems because of it. She’d made threats to kill herself, and even tried, more than once. She also routinely tried to get help and be happy, the best way she could. She got overwhelmed, but she hadn’t given up.

The defendant, who had a previous conviction for domestic violence against another woman, told several different stories about how Teresa died. Experts testified about inconsistencies in his stories that didn't match the physical evidence. Mental health providers testified about her diagnosis and the defense made a list of all her problems. After a week of testimony, the jury spent about 3 hours deliberating and came back with that verdict.

After the verdict, when everyone got up to walk out, Teresa’s mom just sat there, like she was waiting for a different answer. When she recovered enough to cry – she said she was “going public.” No one had the heart to tell her that “the public” generally doesn’t care about women who die like this. “The public” is used to these stories. It generally isn’t very newsworthy and we rarely see reporters milling about waiting for the latest information on our cases.

A small group of heartbroken, and hopeful, family and friends came to the trial every day. They supported each other and they waited. They heard the prosecutors talk about the evidence and how Teresa was more than a mental illness – she was a woman, a mother, a daughter, and a sister. The defense threw down mental health terms like they were character defects: “She was del-u-sion-al” the defense attorney drawled out. He said she was “psychotic.” At one point during the closing he even said “She was mental.”

It was a hard case, nobody doubted that. The jury did what they were supposed to do – we can’t question them – it is what it is.

Teresa was important – she was loved and valued. Her babies, her mother, her sister, all her family – her friends - will always mourn her and feel they were denied justice.

For Teresa’s sake – – I’m going public. On this little blog that maybe only a few people might read – truly, it is cases like this that make me want to do a better job – and frankly, make me more than a little “mental.”


Moose said...

... so what was his reason for shooting her in the head and getting a "not guilty"?

CJ Social Worker said...

Well, I actually don't know...maybe they thought it was an accident?

That IS the $64,000 question in this case.