On Revenge and Regret

Villager: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
Tevye: Very good. That way the whole world will be blind and toothless.

Revenge has come up a few times in the six months since Annette was hit by a car. There have been people who mentioned that they knew somebody they could talk to or write to who could do something to the guy in prison. My answer has been that to stoop to criminal behavior would make me and my family no better than the man who did this to us. Besides, it is not my place to try and exact revenge; my daughter is an adult and when she is able she will decide about whether or not she wants revenge.

I have been giving the idea of retribution a lot of thought this week. What is a fair and just punishment in a case like this? There is no fairness in a hit and run incident where a two thousand pound car hits a human body. Add to that the further loss of any kind of equity when the driver leaves the scene hoping to get away with their crime. Had this man who ran over Annette had his way, he would have gotten away with his transgression and left my daughter to bleed to death in the street.

The idea of justice has been important lately because this was the week that the man who ran over Annette got sentenced. After all these months of waiting and delay and stress and disappointment, I finally got to watch this man meet his fate. Despite the fact that this was something I have been waiting for, the day was neither pleasant nor comforting.

The District Attorney told us that the Department of Corrections and the Probation Department had both recommended that he do probation, with the caveat that neither of them considered punishment or deterrence in their recommendations; this meant that these were left to the judge’s discretion. At some point in the morning (we had already been in court for hours) the judge got the DA and defense attorney together to discuss the case. The defense attorney presented 16 letters to the judge that testified to the character of the defendant. The judge wanted to read through the letters so he ordered that the sentencing would take place right after lunch. So we waited some more.

The sentencing started immediately after lunch. The judge started by stating that the 16 letters he read all spoke to the kindness and responsible nature of the defendant, citing the incident which brought us to court as an aberration. He then gave the family of the victim the opportunity to speak. Annette’s mother spoke first; I cannot recall what she said but the speech was notable for its histrionics. Then Annette’s two sisters each spoke; both of them halting and nervous as you would expect of any teenager in such a situation.

I spoke last. I had not prepared anything. I hardly remember what I said. I did tell the judge that though I could not discount what the letters said about this man’s character, the fact that he ran over my daughter while she pushed a baby carriage and then tried to speed away is also a testament to this man’s character. I said that while the defendant is trying to walk away from all of this, we are praying that my daughter will walk again.

I also said that whatever sins my daughter may have committed, she did not deserve this to happen to her. Even as I said these words it felt like a strange thing for me to have said; it wasn’t Annette who was on trial. I think that I said those words not for the judge, but for myself. I think I still might be trying to get over the issues that have taken place between Annette and me.

In the end, with consideration of the extent and severity of Annette’s injuries as well as the fact that the defendant’s blood alcohol content was over twice the legal limit, the judge sentenced him to two years in prison. This is what we were told to expect. My intent was to see that this man did his time, regardless of my feelings about the fairness or appropriateness of the sentence. I got what I wanted.

Immediately, I felt horrible that in some way, however small, I had helped to send a man to prison. He may have deserved it, but that didn’t assuage my uneasiness. His uncle and a young lady whom I suspect was his cousin were there at the sentencing. They were sad for him and sorry for us. One terrible indiscretion caused great damage to two families; Annette’s and his own. I realized that there are no winners in this situation, only degrees of loss.

When the time comes I hope Annette will decide that she doesn’t need revenge. I hope she can let go of all of this and move on with her life. She will have enough reminders of what she has gone through without constantly reliving them in her own head and heart.  If I have been any kind of decent father to her, I hope I have taught her about kindness and compassion and forgiveness in the face of trial and tribulation.

About Leo

Leo Barrera Expert at dealing with conflict. Grim, determined, a little chaotic, a threat to good order. Veteran. Chicano. Husband. Father. Writer. Photographer. Gardener.
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