Saturday, August 1, 2009

Justice Served?

Almost a year after the tragic shooting death of a 2-year old boy in a nearby town, Thursday morning's top story in The Norwich Bulletin, "Jewett City Parents Avoid Prison Time in Boy's Gun Death", really didn't surprise me as it was about what I expected from a court system that makes laws but then doesn't bother to uphold them.

In 1990, the State of Connecticut passed a law that makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison for failing to properly secure a gun that is used by a child under 16 to cause death or injury - exactly what happened in the very sad case of 2-year old Wyatt. His father left a loaded gun in a place that was accessible to Wyatt who found it once, had his mother take it away from him with an admonishment of "no, bad boo-boos", and then picked it up yet again as soon as she wasn't paying attention to him and shot himself in the head.

Both parents were arrested and charged with negligent storage of a firearm and risk of injury to a minor, each charge a felony. On June 30th, Wyatt's mother pleaded no contest and received a suspended two-year sentence and two years probation while Wyatt's father was granted acceptance into the accelerated rehabilitation program which is a two-year probationary period for first-time offenders. If he follows the conditions of his probation until July 1st, 2011, his criminal record will remain clear just like the incident and arrest never happened.

When the tragedy first happened I wrote a blog post (Where the True Tragedy Lies) wherein I expressed my opinion about the whole sad situation. Apparently my opinion made me a "self-righteous heartless hate monger" in some other people's opinions but that was okay as I didn't expect everyone to agree with me. There are those people who still contend to this day that the parents of young Wyatt were "great parents" and that they would have done nothing to ever hurt one of their children and those people are certainly entitled to their opinions where the matter is concerned. I think they went a little far in calling my place of employment and wanting to get me fired but sometimes when people feel passionate about something, they can go a little overboard and I simply chalked it up to that.

Now that the courts have spoken and the sentencing has been handed down, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I stand by my opinion of last year ...
"The State of Connecticut owes it to not only Wyatt but to every other child in the State to enforce the law that was designed to keep Wyatt and other children like him alive. If a child's parent has to spend some time in jail in addition to knowing that they were responsible for his or her child's death then maybe other parents will think twice about not locking up a loaded weapon and leaving it somewhere that a child can find it and harm or kill him or herself or perhaps even another innocent child."
...however, the part of me that isn't a self-righteous, heartless hatemonger but a parent myself can also understand that perhaps Wyatt's parents are living their own separate hell on earth and maybe - just maybe - they don't need to be spending time in a jail cell wondering what they could have done differently on that tragic August morning. With any luck, they wake up at home every day and think the same thing anyway. Knowing you were responsible for your own child's death has got to be a terrible burden to carry but on the other hand, a mere two years on probation seems like nothing for something of this magnitude.

A friend of mine in California once received three years probation for failing to report income from a small part-time job that helped make ends meet when she was collecting welfare - no one died, restitution was made, and she still got three years probation. My own son made am alleged "threatening remark" out loud in class when he was a Senior in high school - no one died, he got 40 hours of community service, and two years of probation. Two people leave a loaded gun in a place where it can be easily reached - a small child dies and the very people responsible for his death only receive two years probation. Something just doesn't add up here.

I guess the thing that really bothers me the most about the court's final decision is that it seems like the State of Connecticut may as well not even bother to have the law on the books if this is what the outcome is going to be when someone blatantly violates it. Where is the incentive for people to uphold the law? If common sense and the law couldn't save young Wyatt, what's to say that the same thing won't happen to some other innocent child or adult?

If the courts are hoping that people will learn from the mistakes of Wyatt's parents then they'd best think again for if people ever truly learned from other people's mistakes then there would be no more drunk-driving, no more speeding, no more talking on cell phones when you're behind the wheel of a car ... However that sure hasn't stopped so what makes me think other people are going to learn from the tragic death of a small boy whose great parents "would never have hurt him" but ultimately killed him? I don't ... do you?


  1. Anonymous3:23 AM EDT

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Anonymous3:25 AM EDT

    Justice was not served.

    I think it goes to prove that we care less about our innocent and helpless than we do just about anything else.

  3. Anonymous7:03 AM EDT

    It's just sad all-around...

  4. Linda, guvmint just can't legislate COMMON SENSE and I wish that could be drilled into some folks. Really sad when an innocent child dies.

  5. Linda,
    I thought of you and your blog post from last year when I heard this on the news's just so sad. I imagine these parents are suffering every day, knowing they caused their own child's tragic death.

    But I agree that the punishment is rather light for what the State of Connecticut has deemed a felony.

  6. A fine post reminding us, Linda.

  7. Very well written, Linda. There are 2 sides to every coin, yes. Certainly, the parents (if they have any conscience at all) are living in their own private hell for the rest of their lives. But then why make laws to cover these things when they are not carried out? Seems like all our laws are "open to interpretation." Should we go back to the days of "let the punishment fit the crime" or an-eye-for-an-eye? Seems to me that the "Oh, I didn't mean to do that" defense is winning. This scares me... A LOT!

  8. I suppose they are living in their own hell
    or are they taking some comfort in the fact that "their peers" and the courts think they have suffered enough?

    Overall I think gun laws in this country are incredibly lax and getting worse all the time

    Did you happen to see the Police Chief of Jersey City (after the gunfight in the streets) go off on the NRA. I e-mailed him my sympathies and my support.

    Twisted values and completely off balance scales of justice in this country.

  9. I agreed with your original post, and I applauded your courage in posting what was sure to be a polarizing series of opinions.

    I think part of the societal problem is that people think "it won't happen to me". And that thought can lead to carelessness, which can lead to a negligent accident.

    I don't think we'll ever learn from others' mistakes. It's not in us to do so. We can only learn from our own mistakes. And we can only hope our mistakes don't have tragic consequences.

  10. There are many tragedies that are caused from stupidity. But to say that they are punished enough by the death of the child does not put me at ease. Couldn't we put the same thinking to drunk drivers who kill while behind the wheel? Living with the knowledge that they killed another human being is punishment enough? why have the laws if then all they are going to fo is feel sorry for the criminal that disobeyed the law.

  11. Anonymous6:24 PM EDT

    Linda, thank-you for having the sense to care about this baby boy. Too bad the State of Connecticut and its' Judicial System along with the parents couldn't do the right thing from the beginning. Some people should never have guns. This tragedy proved that. And to think after probation that man will be able to have a gun or 10 and be 'required' to teach safety with firearms to new generations of baby girls and baby boys does not leave a warm feeling in my belly.

  12. I'm in the camp where responsibility means that you accept the consequences of your actions. If we are going to have the freedom to have fire arms, then we have to accept what happens when they are misused even if that is in addition to the loss of a loved one.

    You may not be able to legislate common sense, but you can teach others by showing what happens when common sense isn't present.

  13. Oh in line with your goal of selling some of your photography, here are some shows in MA but I'm sure there are others near you. Time to mount and frame and find a place to exhibit.

  14. We have laws on the books to prosecute people who misuse their right to bear arms. The second amendment gives us that right.
    Our laws are not too lax, but the enactment of them is. (IMHO)
    It is horrible to think that this child died due to negligence by the two people who probably loved him the most. But it you choose to have firearms in your house, they should be under your care and control and certainly not accessible to those who would be at risk.
    Great post, Linda. Love you!

  15. I echo you on my surprise and disappointment on the lack of severity in the punishment.

    I am saddened to think this case will be used as precedent going forward for similar cases.

    I believe we have the right to own guns...but that right comes with responsibility.

  16. Linda,

    I agree with you (once again) whole wholeheartedly about the entire issue. I had noticed the news story and my stomach turned when I thought about the lack of justice that was served in this case. I hope that two years is long enough to divert them from the past of irresponsibility that they embarked on, but I severely doubt that is the case. The most disgusting part of the case is the AR does not require an admission of guilt. Ugh.

    Gun laws in this country are plenty strong enough for the given task. Sadly, when a moron like these two violates those laws, the general public is up in arms and crying for tighter restrictions on the lawful owners who follow the rules. Instead of increasing restrictive legislation of the rest of us, ENFORCE THE LAWS as they already stand.

    It's a pitiful state of affairs if you ask me.


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