Wednesday, August 8, 2012

7 Consecutive Life Sentences + 140 Years

..... and all I feel is empty.

Everything I've thought and felt returned today, with a vengeance.  I was frightened and tearful and weary and anxious and angry and sad.  It was overwhelmingly sad.

A 23 year old kid young man young adult human being will spend the rest of his life in a box.  There will be no trial on the 49 Federal counts brought against the gunman who killed 6 and wounded 13 of us exactly 19 months ago.  The perpetrator admitted his guilt and, in doing so, took responsibility for his actions. 

I thought I'd feel better.

Unlike previous hearings, we were wanded before we entered the courtroom, yet there were far fewer armed Federal marshals lining the walls. There was a lot of furniture moving and equipment readying and then the reporters took their seats and a quiet solemnity fell.  There were no instructions to be silent; it just felt right.  We stood as Judge Burns entered, and then I started to cry.

Dr. Christina Pietz, the treating psychologist at United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, was the one and only witness.  Judge Burns attested to having read - more than once - the 2000 pages of documentation which she had submitted to bolster her testimony.  Nothing was being taken for granted; everything was taken seriously. 

Mary Sue Feldmeier, our Assistant United States Attorney, asked the questions.  The answers just made me cry harder.

He'd been depressed since his junior year in high school.  His friends were so worried they instituted a suicide watch. He heard voices, and wondered if his parents heard them, too.  There was no evidence that he was treated for his behavior.

I didn't know that my heart could feel heavier, but her testimony proved me wrong.  He failed to kill Gabby... and he thinks he's a failure, because that was the plan and he fell short.  He feels remorse for those whose lives he took.... especially the child's.

I think about that child every single day.  I miss that child every single day.  How dare he have any thoughts about her at all.... even those thoughts... but why not, because, as Dr. Pietz testified, "he is becoming human." 

What was he, then, when he filled his Glock, model 19, 9mm, semi-automatic weapon with 32 bullets? 

He has "a serious mental illness and situational depression."  An officer sits across from him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  His situation isn't going to change.  "I'm  22," he told Dr. Pietz last year, "and this is it."

In some ways, the death penalty might have been more merciful. 

But I wasn't looking for mercy this morning in the Federal Courthouse in downtown Tucson.  Mercy is too nuanced for the judicial system.  Mercy is, I think, what I'm feeling around the edges of my heart lately.  Mercy was in the tone of Judge Burns's inquiries of the defendant; there was something fatherly about the interactions that made me even sadder.

Where was all this concern, all this attention, before the voices and the shooter combined to kill my little friend?  Did the parents not have any friends or relatives who could have... should have... intervened?  Why didn't the seller-of-bullets-at-the-second-Walmart act as responsibly as the fellow  at the first Walmart, when the shooter sought to purchase ammunition that morning?  Stan saw something in his eyes and refused to make the sale.  He's not looking for notoriety; he told me that he was just doing his job. Would that others had done theirs.

The shooter's story is one of disposal, of being unattended, of being dismissed.  He has no viable defense, once he waived an insanity plea.  He is convicted of killing, intimidating, intending to kill and he'll spend the rest of his life folding towels and t-shirts for the prison shower room, or stamping return addresses on out-going mail.... all alone.... in a box... without contact with other prisoners.... for his own safety.

The absurdities are overwhelming, but mostly there's the emptiness.  What I want, I cannot have.  This will have to suffice.


  1. We will never understand. It will NeVeR make sense...
    Be well, Suz. Be STRoNG. You are LoVeD.

    ~LP <3

  2. Well, AB, I wouldn't know and can't even begin to grasp the depth of your feelings. But Oh, I wish I could have held your hand during that hearing. I wish I could have been there to rub your back and let you know that whatever you are feeling, you are still feeling which is good. You have a lot of friends here and about who are spiritually holding your hand and just standing by to listen. Take care, we're here.

  3. A person would feel somewhat better if they thought we had learned as a people from this but another mentally ill young man with doubtless also voices killed in Aurora. Again there were warnings, and yet something in our culture has refused to provide a process to do something about them when it would do some good. I've been around schizophrenics and they are really in another world. They don't get it and you can't get through to them. Why we don't have a method for forcing medication and even holding them against their will, until they do see the world out there, that I don't understand. Our government can spend hours arguing over things that don't impact most of our lives but this, which could destroy anybody's life at any time, that they can't handle? We aren't a strong people at all if we don't face this and now.

  4. Oh AB, I cried when I saw your interview with the BBC. You were strong, but I could tell that you still have a broken heart. I'm sad too because this could have all been prevented. We put more restrictions on driving a car than we do on guns. We also have to wake up and realize that there are people with mental illness. They should be treated and not just dismissed as being "nuts". The sheer fact that these people can hurt themselves and others should be a priority for our society. I'm also angry because we waste so much money on useless wars and yet we cannot address the issues like mental illness that is so rampant in our country.

    I don't like the death penalty, but I don't want him EVER out. I don't care if he's medicated and "human". He has the potential to hurt again and we cannot let that happen. I also agree that he doesn't have the right to think of himself in any of this. He hurt so many people. Part of me feels really sorry for him. Not in the way where I think "Gosh, it's so sad. He should have more leniency". I feel sorry for him because sometime in his past, someone did not take enough interest in him to get him help. He's thrown his life away and irreparably damaged so many other families.

    I'm sad for the lost potential of what those six people could have accomplished. I'm just sitting here crying.

    I know if I had been with you, I would have been crying too along with you.

    Sending hugs.

    Megan xxx


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