“I don’t want to go,” I told my husband when he got up early that third morning, January 15, scheduled for court.
But go we did. It was the raw emotion of it that I’d had more than enough of that week. Like having your insides pulled outside your body and stroked with a wire brush. (Whoa! That’s a pretty grisly image.)
We arrived to find a very crowded Provincial courthouse. They were selecting a jury for the Innisfail bombing murder case. (Someone sent a bomb in a package to a young wheelchair-bound woman, killing her in order to get her life insurance.) It’s another world in that place, I tell you.
And perhaps the awareness that there are people who live, raise their children and generally operate on an entirely different value system than we do, was the theme of this day in court.
We were happy to have one of our younger sons join us that day in the courtroom. It felt so good to have one of our living sons with us.
But I’d barely had a chance to greet him when the prosecutor gave us news that surprised even him. It was 5 minutes past starting time and he’d just discovered the accused was not present. The Crown attorney said although he’d anticipated this happening in some of his cases, he’d never seen it happen in all his years of practice.
When the judge entered there was some discussion between him and the two lawyers about what to do. We recessed for another half hour, with the judge hoping it was just January road conditions or some other unforeseen event making him late. I was impressed with the judge’s merciful attitude.
But nope. The accused just never showed.
Everyone was taken by surprise, even the defense lawyer. Apparently C’s parents had arrived at court earlier, but left again, having to return to NB today. They did say he had been very stressed and hadn’t been sleeping well. I can only imagine. Neither had we.
When we first came to court, we had held in our hearts a willingness to forgive, as I’ve written here. I was all too aware of my own sin and the many foolish things I did when I was younger or that my husband or children did, that could have so easily ended tragically. And even though the sins we commit on a daily basis may not be criminal offenses, who among us is entirely guiltless? So, conscious of all I’ve been forgiven of, I put myself in the shoes of the accused and his parents. I imagined the heartache they must have been experiencing at the thought of their son being responsible for someone’s death. And the fear, shame and anguish at the prospect of prison time for him.
But as the case went on, I became aware that other parents might not hold that same perspective. It was possible they were angry that their son’s life was being messed up simply because of a careless pedestrian out on the road late at night. These thoughts threatened my resolve to have a forgiving heart and I had to remind myself that while I was still a sinner, an enemy of God, Christ gave his life for me.
So a warrant was issued for C’s arrest. We had no idea when or if they would find him. We were scheduled to leave for vacation in Texas the next day and throughout our travel time, I thought about the freedom a clear conscience allows. In contrast, being wanted by police would have meant major stress in always looking over one’s shoulder and trying to devise ways of evading the law.
Of course, it was only a matter of time. Two weeks later, the accused was apprehended in Red Deer. He would have to sit in jail nearly five months until the new date – June 5 — set for the completion of this trial (closing arguments, verdict and sentencing). And of course, he might face new charges for absconding from court that day. My heart grieved for such a fearful, confused and selfish young man.
What he’d done that day only reinforced the pattern of behaviour he was charged with: running away and covering his crimes. It would most likely affect the judge’s sentencing.
Again, I was struck by the dangers of not requiring kids to take responsibility for their wrongs. Maybe our emphasis on attending to the development of our kids’ character hadn’t been far wrong. Obviously, the actions of the accused can’t be blamed entirely on his parents. He’s an adult. But we had seen a pattern of running from responsibility for his actions. It reinforced for me that parents do a great disservice to their children if they protect them from the consequences of their actions.
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.” ~Proverbs 3:11,12