Every day we hear a heart-warming news story of ordinary people who come to the aid of strangers in need. Have you noticed them?
The motorists who sprinted from their cars to help victims of the wrong-way collisions in Atlanta? The man who jumped into the path of an oncoming train to save the lady and her baby that fell onto the subway tracks?
I’m sure we will soon learn of heroes in Louisiana who will help others affected by the storms.
Let me share with you a local story.
Remember the murder trial in Spalding County a couple of weeks ago? The defendant killed the lady that had rescued him while he was homeless. Then he killed her pet ferret. He stuffed both of his victims into a hope chest and has spent the rest of his time since then pretending to be crazy.
I told you that the jury found him guilty of murder and several other crimes. Here is what happened after that.
The judge thanked the jurors for their service and excused them. Their sacrifice was over—they could return to their jobs and families.
They filed out of the jury box and passed by the prosecution table.
But, they didn’t walk out the door. Instead, all 12 of them quietly sat on the benches surrounding the daughter of the murder victim. They didn’t whisper a word. They were staying for the sentencing hearing. Later, the victim’s daughter would tell me, “I had 12 guardian angels all around me.”
As it turned out, we didn’t finish the hearing that day. The defense asked for a pre-sentence investigation, so that they could present the opinions of yet another psychologist.
So, this week we resumed that hearing. The defendant hopped into the courtroom as if he were a prissy kangaroo. One with tattoos all over his body. His psychologist confirmed what the others had said—he’s not crazy. His thoughts are “logical and goal-oriented.”
The report by Brad Dennis of the Probation Department was very thorough, quoting the defendant as saying that he thought the victim wanted to die because “death is the best part of life.”
The judge sentenced this killer to life without possibility of parole, plus five years. The defendant hopped out of the courtroom, his hands held in front of his chest like a squirrel.
I turned around to congratulate the victim’s family. That was when I noticed it. Several of the jurors had returned for the completion of the sentencing hearing. And, again, they surrounded the victim’s daughter.
Not one of the jurors knew this lady before the trial began. All were neutral before they heard the evidence. Now, they were reaching out to a fellow citizen who needed them in the midst of great tragedy. That’s what guardian angels do.
They couldn’t bring back her mother. They couldn’t replace the void caused by her senseless murder. But, they had reminded us that the law is alive and well.
And then, to punctuate matters, they did one more thing. Something I had never known a jury to do.
They gave this grieving lady the pen they had used to complete the guilty verdicts.