Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Our System Confronts Pure Tragedy

Yesterday in Miami, Ronald Salazar was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for rape and first degree murder. The story is here.

I assume somewhere else in the world yesterday, some defendant or two, or more, were sentenced to life terms for murder, rape, kidnapping. It is what our system was meant to do, take violent criminels off the streets so they can never commit what we deem the most serious crimes, again.

Our system has evolved though. We now send people to prison for life if they've sold too much drugs, or have committed too many other types of crimes. Life in prison is no longer reserved for those that have killed, or almost killed.

Everyday our system confronts crime. Car theft, credit card fraud, mortgage fraud, and other personal and property crimes. Prosecutors hand out jail sentences, argue for no bond, and our system further blurs the lines between those who belong in jail, and those who don't.

Ronald Salazar was 14 when he raped and murdered his sister. His parents did not hire a lawyer for him nor support him through the process. I'm not blaming them, just stating this as a fact. He tried to put on an insanity defense, but his post-crime activities didn't convince the jury that he didn't know what he was doing. The prosecutor assigned, was one of the most senior homicide prosecutors in the state attorney's office. I wasn't there for the trial, so I can't say whether Mr. Salazar has a shot on appeal. Most defendants don't.

The trial was not a circus, or a media spectacle. The story mentions a nearly empty gallery at the reading of the verdict.

This, to me, is one of the most tragic cases I've seen. It defines pure tragedy. These parents have lost a daughter and will live the rest of their lives knowing their son is in prison. With no parole in Florida Mr. Salazar knows now, at the age of 19, that barring a successful appeal, he will eventually die in prison.

I saw no post-trial press conference by either side, no inflammatory comments, no sense of joy in the community, or concern that a 19 year old will die in prison.
This, is how we confront pure tragedy. Quietly, professionally, and without any sense of satisfaction.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com

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