Saturday, September 12, 2009

Un Newsworthy

In seperateness lies the world's great misery, in compassion lies the world's true strength.

- Buddha

I was in court observing a domestic violence homicide case. I had consulted with the prosecutor about this case, but had not worked with the victim's family, so they didn't know who I was.

I often bring my laptop with me when I observe trials. I can work during the downtimes. Real trials are not like on TV. There is a lot of downtime: the lawyers make arguments outside the presence of the jury, the court has to conduct other business, there are breaks, etc.

So, I was working on my laptop during one the downtimes in this trial. The jury stepped out for a short break and the victim's brother turned to me and asked if I was a reporter. (Normally, I introduce myself to the family if I haven't already met them, but I hadn't yet introduced myself.)

It was a profoundly sad moment. The brother, kind of scruffy-looking dressed in jeans and a nice shirt, looked at me hopefully. I really wanted to say, "Why yes, and I have been sent to cover this important case." Of course didn't say that. I told him that I was a social worker who worked at the DA's Office. I told him I wanted to be at the trial, but I also had to keep up with my other work, so I was trying to do both. He laughed and said he understood.

The jury came back and the trial started back up just after we spoke and the next witness started talking about where and how the victim's body was found. The brother put his face in his hands and I put my hand on his back and whispered, "I'm sorry." He nodded briefly, his eyes brimming with tears.

In a smaller place - not Houston - they probably do cover all the domestic violence murder cases. Here in Houston, we have an average of 1 person killed every 10 to 14 days due to domestic violence. There's just too many murders. They are too commonplace to make the news on a regular basis.

I've noticed over the years that the domestic violence homicides only get covered if there is something unusual - like when Timothy Shepherd burned up his girlfriend's body in his bar-b-que grill after he killed her, or when dentist Clara Harris ran over her husband with her Mercedes and killed him.

For our commonplace murders - your regular folk - people who work for UPS, or K-Mart - the SOPs of domestic violence homicides - I suppose we're just too used to these or maybe "this story has already been done." Maybe it is just the same story with different names, the same facts, the same ending - you know - un newsworthy.

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