Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thoughts on Justice

When I first thought about a post today, I had a collection of random things I was going to post about. But I turned on the tv to the local news this morning as I dined on oatmeal and turkey sausage. There I found the televised sentencing of Brian Nichols, who killed 4 people and injured 1, took a hostage in a suburban Atlanta apartment complex and led authorities on a metro Atlanta wide manhunt.

This is the window in my bedroom and I think it creates an interesting graphic with the window panes and the deck. Although its sort of commonplace, it's more precious now that I recall how close I came to Brian Nichols back in March 2005. I had already bought this house, and was waiting for the painting to be done before I moved in.

At that time I had a GSD named Piper that I dearly loved. However, she had aggression issues and I had taken to walking her very early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid children, people, and dogs. And the walks had to be long to work off her energy. So on March 11, 2005, a Friday night, I walked Piper late in the evening, say around 11 pm (when one walked with Piper, personal safety was not an issue). I was in the habit of walking her from my small neighborhood through the nearby apartment communities since they had sidewalks and open areas and my neighborhood and it's neighbors weren't really walking communities.

This is my front walk this morning. It leads to a sidewalk in my current neighborhood which is a wonderful walking community. On the other hand, you will notice the blue thing in front of my walk. It is not my car. My car is peeking in from the left side. People who park in front of my house so that I can't park in front of my house are my pet peeve. Because then I have to park in front of my mailbox and get a nasty-gram from the mailman who says "if your mailbox is blocked your mail will be stopped".

So Piper and I walked that night, and it was cold. It was a Friday night, so I wasn't in a hurry since no work on Saturday. I had been following the Brian Nichols news story, but no one knew where he was after he shot the customs official. That followed the courthouse slayings. You can read about them here.

MFC had lost a friend, Judge Barnes, in the shootings. It had been widely discussed at work that day. So, Piper and I walked. We walked and walked and returned home ready for bed.

The next morning, I got up and turned on the tv, but no new news. I dressed and left to go to the new house to check the painting or something. Possibly to go house hunting with MFC because she was looking for a house about that time. As I drove the mile from my house to Satellite Boulevard to head to the interstate I noticed helicopters swarming around the area. The closer I got to the apartments I walked through the night before, I saw deputies, sheriffs, police and if I'm not mistaken, the GBI staging in the adjacent apartments (there were several next door to each other). Brian Nichols, I thought. It can't be here. In the suburban boonies.

It was. Turning on the radio I learned he had taken a female hostage in the very apartment complex I had walked Piper through. I'll never know if he was there in the shadows as we made our way through the quiet complex that Friday night. But we hadn't missed him by much. And I've always wondered if the big black and tan german shepherd with me changed the course of events that evening, or if we never crossed paths. She did alert that evening in the apartments. But then, she alerted for rabbits, mice, rats, cats, people and paper blowing across pavement, too. So between God and Piper, I was safe that evening.

My snow people look on this morning at the special box I received. I am drawing out opening it because inside is something special and scary. Scary in the sense that it will challenge me.

So as I ate my breakfast, with one eye on the box above and one eye on the tv, I considered what the judge was saying about how it was imperative, even in the face of complete certainty that someone is guilty, that they be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That our justice system with all its flaws is the envy of the world. That we shouldn't cut corners by bringing the accused to court in prison attire - that we should accord the accused every benefit of the doubt. Until they are proven guilty. As has been the case with Brian Nichols.

It's hard to keep that in mind when we have 24 hour a day news. There's a case right now, the missing little girl in Florida, where I'm sure we all believe the mother was more than just neglectful. That the family didn't react soon enough.

So in that case too, we should let the system work the way it is designed so that we maintain our right to be innocent until proven guilty.

But it's awfully hard.


  1. Such a thoughtful post and I'm SO glad you were safe. I got chills on the narrow miss : ( And WHAT is in that box?! Love the ornament picture from yesterday by the way!

  2. Today is 9/9/09 and I'm just reading about your close call with Brian Nichols. How terrifying! So glad you had Piper with you!



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