Sunday, November 1, 2009

Crying Without Tears

In my career, I have born witness to thousands of stories of shocking violence, incredible bravery, and unabashed raw human emotion. I count myself extremely fortunate and humbled to be able to share in my clients' journey from victimized to victor.

A little background for my story. Here in Texas, victims can give a statement after a trial or guilty plea. Basically, after everything is over, the victim can say a few words to the defendant. Many people don't do this, possibly because they may have had a chance to say what they needed in the trial. Generally, we only see these done in the more serious cases - like an aggravated assault, a robbery, or a murder (given by the victim's family usually).

Recently, I saw a police officer give a victim impact statement in court and it left me stunned. Which, considering my long history of hearing stories of violence and survivial, is really saying something.

The nearly 20 year veteren officer got a call that a man was holding his ex-wife hostage at gunpoint. This officer was the first at the scene. He thought about how he'd want someone to try and save his own children if they were in this situation, so he kicked in the door and confronted the man. It was a real time-stopping standoff. The man moved his ex-wife in front of him. Eventually, the man and the ex-wife moved to a bedroom. Swat came. After several hours, the man finally gave up.

In his victim impact statement, the officer stood to face the defendant. He had just in that moment decided he would give a statement, so he hadn't prepared what he would say. The officer told the defendant, "I would have killed you if I could have." He went on to describe that he just couldn't get a clean shot. He said it plain as day - not bragging, not even angry, just a fact. I would have killed you if I could have. Perhaps he was saying it as much to himself as the defendant. I had the sense the officer had been living with the terrible burden of this reality - that, yes, he would have killed another human being.
The officer talked about how in that moment - defendant holding the gun to his ex's head, officer holding gun on def - the officer thought about his baby son and wondered who would take care of his family if he died. He described how time slowed down just as he'd heard people say about life and death situations.

At the end of his statement, the officer told the defendant he had another chance. And, not to blow it.

So - the title of blog entry - Crying Without Tears - that's how I felt when I saw the officer give his statement. Like the proverbial "punch in the gut." For days after in my mind I heard him say, "I would have killed you if I could have." Spoken like a humble warrier, a regular guy turned soldier, a man who protected someone else's child as he'd want his own protected - a real hero.

1 comment:

Marsha said...

Wow! Jennifer, I can't stop reading your blog. Thanks for sending the link. You are an excellent writer and I'm so proud and grateful for the work you do!