By Marc Klaas
The longer the jury deliberates the more depressed my family becomes. We fully expect the jury to return with the death penalty verdict. However, this extended waiting period forces us to again relive and re-focus our attention on the very unpleasant details of the past three years. We are hostages to a psychopath and his constitutional rights. We are forever unable to re-capture the relative serenity that existed before October 1, 1993. Regardless of the final judgment, the killer is still alive and we will never again be graced by Polly's bright smile and cheerful disposition.
Training manuals and lesson plans to prepare victim families for the ordeal of a trial are non-existent. Although courtroom drama is suspenseful and entertaining, it has no grounding in reality. The family alone represents the victim. If a victim family is fortunate, the prosecutor will keep them informed on the progress of the case. A good prosecutor will meticulously prepare a case and seek a realistic, achievable penalty. Unfortunately, by definition the prosecutor serves the state and the best a family can hope for is that the district attorney will help prepare them for the trauma of the courtroom experience.
Heroic defense lawyers fighting for the rights of innocent underdogs tend to be a myth. Instead we are subjected to highly paid spin doctors with cards up their sleeve and tricks in their bag that enable them to return every type of criminal, including recidivist violent offenders, to the streets. Victory for the defense has no relation to justice. Instead it is measured by their ability to return their clientele to the killing fields. They justify their behavior by saying that "It is better to return a hundred guilty men to the street than convict one innocent man". Ultimately, we are all hostages of a convoluted system that works against our best interests.
Victim families are also victims of irony. Their relative is either maimed, dead or psychologically damaged. No amount of punishment will ever change that fact. Therefore, we can only hope for the most severe punishment possible, knowing that, ultimately it changes nothing. Society looks upon us as retributive and vengeful. We cannot win. If, as in this instance, the killer receives the death penalty, there are still countless appeals, millions of dollars and endless years of waiting for final disposition of the verdict. Tragedy only piles grief upon frustration upon despair. The only possible winners sit at the defense table, plea bargaining, maneuvering and negotiating indefensible crimes to less severe penalties and, if successful, the guarantee of future tragedy.
The Constitution guarantees many rights to predators, psychopaths and law breakers. Unfortunately, the dead have no rights. This is very convenient for the accused. Not only does he receive the guarantees of our most sacred document, but he co-opts the sympathy that is the right of the dead. Not only are we required to finance his mayhem, but he co-opts our right to be protected against him. Not only is he guaranteed continued birthdays, but he forever co-opts our right to celebrate Polly's birthday.
So, we spin in the wind, waiting, venting and hoping for a disposition that guarantees our right to continued grief, frustration and despair.
KlaasKids Foundation P.O. Box 925, Sausalito, CA 94966
Copyright © 2002 KlaasKids Foundation For Children. All rights reserved.