Back in 2004, my Father-in-Law was killed by a drunk driver. I'm not going to use her real name here. She's paid her debt to society, her soul is her problem, and I don't like to tattle-tell. This woman, Lori, had been hitting the casino AND the bottle (Two vices for the price of one, can I get a hallelujah?) and she was hitting it hard - to the tune of .19 (twice the legal limit in Indiana) Thinking back on my Marine Corps days, I can safely say I probably hit the .19 mark and kept on going more than a few times. I may not clearlyrememberall of them, but I do know I never hopped in my car when I was in such a state. However, I didn't own a car at the time and that might skew my results. There but for the Grace of God, my friends.
Fast-forward to 2007.
After two and half years of waiting and watching a high priced attorney with very good hair try every legal maneuver he could think of to get his guilty-as-hell client out of the mess she created, we finally got some good old fashioned American Justice. She took a plea deal. *sigh*
During the sentencing hearing, my husbands and his family had the opportunity to make victim impact statements and say what sentence they would like to see imposed. Lori's family and friends got a chance to say why they think she should get a suspended sentence and go back home to her castle in the sky. Neither side walked out of court happy.
4 years with 18 months probation is what the judge decided. That means she will serve about 2 years if she's a good girl and plays nice with others. Four years doesn't sound like a fair trade for a life, but it is what it is. It's something, and more justice than other families ever get.
I think the most dramatic moment came when the judge asked the corrections officer to 'escort' Lori out of the building after the sentencing. The officer instructed the state's newest convicted felon to stand and place her hands behind her back.
The courtroom was very quiet, and anyone who ever watched a cop show or had a less-than-vanilla love life knows handcuffs make a very distinctive sound. There is the initial click when the cuffs are snapped into place followed closely by a series of little clicks as they are tightened and locked down.
In that hushed courtroom, the sound was particularly loud, each click representing justice, relief, perhaps renewed faith in The System and possibly even a measure of closure. For our side, anyway. I can only imagine what those clicks meant to Lori's family, a family about to lose one, essential member.
Was Lori's income essential for her family? *click* Did she always make the Turkey on Thanksgiving?
Did she always decorate the tree on Christmas? *click* Did she drive her children to school? To the orthodontist? To church? *click*
Will she miss graduations? Marriage? Maybe the birth of a grandchild?
Such a waste. Such a preventable and costly waste. I'd wrap this up with profound words of caution, but anything I could say has already been said, and probably said better.