Our justice system needs less ‘system,’ more ‘justice’

Four years ago, I wrote about two young women who were murdered in Georgia.

Their names were Lori Brown and Cyndi Williams.

Cyndi Williams was my nephew’s wife.

Both young women were shot and killed while working in a model-home sales office. The details of the crime point to the fact that the killer was after money. The details of the shootings would just plain boil your blood.

The suspect eluded police when they tried to question him at a relative’s home, but he was captured several days later after a high-speed chase across two counties in Wisconsin.

Some published reports regarding the specifics of the crime:

The empty shell casings found at the scene were matched to the 9mm semi-automatic pistol found in the suspect’s car when he was arrested in Wisconsin.

Blood found on the pistol in the suspect’s car was matched via DNA to the blood of one of the victims.

The suspect’s truck matched the description of a truck seen outside the sales office before the murders took place.

A truck matching the same description was visible in photographs taken by a security camera at an ATM where the killer tried to use the bank cards taken from the women.

A drop of blood found on the carpet of the suspect’s truck matched the blood of the other victim.

And, following his arrest, the suspect made the following statement during a police interview: “I will plead guilty to the death penalty or life without parole. I just don’t want to face those girls’ families or my family.”

All of this, as noted, occurred almost four years ago and the delays in this case have been frustrating beyond words for the families of both victims. Added to this is the fact that the trial was moved to a location more than 300 miles from where the crime took place due to the publicity surrounding the case and in the interest of “fairness” to the accused.

Pardon me while I mutter (in terms not fit for this newspaper) an opinion regarding that notion. You see, most of the people I’ve met in my lifetime are intelligent and fair-minded individuals capable of making informed decisions. For that reason, finding a jury capable of honestly evaluating the facts of a case in a city or county wherein a crime has been committed isn’t (and, in my mind, never will be) impossible.

As to the time it’s taken to bring this case to trial, there’s an old saying that justice delayed is justice denied. In any society worthy of the name, victims and their families need to know that the rules they’ve abided by are part of a system that can be trusted to work — fairly and expeditiously — when they’re harmed. They need to believe that such a system will consider their hurt and their rights every bit as much as it considers the rights of the perpetrator.

It took four years to bring this case to trial. Four years of motions and hearings. Four years of pain and frustration. Four years of the victims’ families knowing that, while the alleged killer had all of that time to consider what would become of his life, those two young women had bare — and utterly terrifying — moments to contemplate the end of theirs.

To my way of thinking, such a delay does not equate to anything reasonable. Rather, it much more readily confirms an ever-growing notion that parts of our justice system have become a lot more “system” rather than having anything to do with the idea of justice.

In short, whatever those years may have been, nothing that falls under the title of justice fits. In point of fact, I’d offer that what they’ve been is a time for obfuscation, smoke screens and misdirection rather than a search for justice.

Jury selection is now over and the trial is underway. If the accused is convicted, there will be appeals, motions, and more years of waiting for an appropriate punishment — all while my nephew’s wife and her friend lie quietly in their graves.

Something’s gone terribly wrong in a system that allows such delays and that something needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, given the direction in which we — as a society — seem to be moving in our efforts to ensure the rights of the accused, I won’t be holding my breath while waiting for that fix to occur.

Four damned years.

Jesus wept.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. His e-mail address is larrysim@att.net.

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