Thursday, July 16, 2009

Peace and Dignity

Over a year ago, Jerome Sidney Barrett was indicted for the murder of Marcia Trimble. Just last Saturday, a jury of his peers convicted him of the crime of second degree murder in two counts. He'll likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Oh there'll be appeals, there'll probably be petitions for post-conviction relief. The lawyers will wrangle about the issues and posture to the judges, as with every case. I listened to most of the trial, and relived a great portion of the winter of my 12th year. Much came undone. Anguish surfaced. Fear stirred. After the verdict was rendered, Marcia's mother spoke to the media. Standing in the wake of three decades of swirling horror and grief, she literally sighed relief. Much of the time, a sigh of relief is bland poetry. For Virginia Trimble Ritter, last Saturday, it was reality. A well-meaning reporter asked her if, now, at the conclusion of the trial, she might have closure. Her response was gracious. She said something like this:

I think I'll have to see what Mr. Webster says about closure, I don't think I know what that word means. But I can say this. Today, I'm on the other side of pain.

Waiting thirty-four years for a killer to be found and brought to justice will leave a woman wanting. It'll slice you up and spit you out. Mrs. Trimble-Ritter has lived to tell. She has endured the dark nights, the fierce days, and attacks of hopelessness. At the end of this leg of the journey, Marcia's death still looms, and I'm sure it does in a new way for Mrs. Trimble-Ritter.

One of the details I appreciate about indictments in Tennessee, is the verbiage that follows each allegation. At the conclusion of every count of every indictment, prior to the District Attorney General's signature is the phrase that prompted my writing today:

in violation of T.C.A. 39-13-.....and against the peace and dignity of the State of Tennessee.

At every trial the indictment is read into the record, and those words jangle in the mind of a jury; against the peace and dignity. In the Barrett trial, I was fortunate to hear colleague Katrin Miller read the indictment. I focused on those words through-out the trial and at the end felt a curious peace, not so much afforded by the State, or to the State, but rather that peace that passes understanding, the contentment that comes from a long journey's endurance.

May Virginia Trimble-Ritter have attained some peace & dignity. She has shared hers well. Even in the revisiting of great sadness, I pray she be sustained. One day, all of what was lost will be restored to her, to Marcia, to us.

Sola Deo Gloria.

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