Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

29 November 2005

Jeanine & Rolando

Reposted from my old blog...

Even as a child I watched the news and followed some things as closely as possible. Certain things stick out in my head. Obvious ones like the Challenger explosion, but less obvious ones like Jeanine Nicarico's murder. Maybe it was because we were close in age. In 1983, she was 10 and I was 8. Maybe it was all the media hype around it. Maybe my mom said something about it. I'm sure she did, I just don't recall what. But her murder left a deep impression on me.

I've blogged many times that my introduction to grassroots organizing came from Amnesty International. It was in that classroom that I also learned more about the death penalty and how unjust it had been doled out in this country. I went to a AI student conference that talked about all the stats on how racist and classist it was. Then someone talked about Rolando Cruz. All the evidence made sense to a 15-year-old. That Cruz had been framed by over eager (with justification) prosecutors and police officers. That Brian Dugan was the real murderer. What I didn't get is how stupid the Nicaricos could be. How could they look at the evidence and not see how the police messed up?

Of course I grew up and realized that the Nicaricos had lost a child. That when you lose a child logic goes out the window. The hubby had a murder in his extended family and a family member was sent to prison for it. The mother of the victim still refuses to believe that her family member did it. That's how far logic goes out the window. So instead I feel bad for the Nicaricos and I wish that this whole thing was settled so they can move on with their lives. That they could live their lives and remember Jeanine the way they want and not have to make plans to sit in court and hear, yet again, the details of their daughter's death.

But that's not to be. Today may be the day that the DuPage State's Attorney will finally indict Brian Dugan of Jeanine's murder.

Sadly the main point that hinges on whether Dugan will have to sit thru a trial or plead guilty is the matter of the death penalty. Of course, he doesn't want it and the victims' families do. Dugan is currently serving time for other murders.

And that simple fact is why I am opposed to the death penalty. How fast could this case had been wrapped up if the death penalty had not been an option? Why haggle for 20 years on whether or not to charge someone with a crime that they confessed to?

My heart breaks that this case is still out there. That Jeanine has not had justice served. That the media will create another circus out of this tragedy.

Of course, I oppose the death penalty on so many other levels: racism, classism, morals, the inability for humans to be 100% certain of anything, and how the death penalty interferes with justice being served in a timely manner.

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I get it now. Jeanine's death marked the end of my innocence. From that day on, I could never be alone at home without feeling like something might happen. Feeling safe at home was never an option again. Maybe with some conclusion I can feel safe again. But I doubt it.