These newspaper articles were not the first I heard of the story. It was told to me by a friend of the accused "teen-agers", as the story of Jessica's death.
I don't know anyone in the story personally, with the exception of one brief meeting. I'm not involved... except the story involves me, because I am struggling with where to place myself, how to understand.
This man killed Jessica. We hear about death everyday, but I heard about
this death as the death of a friend, a young girl, who bled to
death from a stomach wound in a Texaco parking lot. I saw the parking
lot. I have heard a song written for Jessica. My friend mourns the loss
of her. This death is real, more real than murder victims on the news, or
the startling early deaths of celebrities. This death is real, and it is
the only permanent injury that came out of this event.
And the killer is not even being tried. I realize he'd probably get off
on a plea of self-defense. But why isn't he being forced to PROVE it? Why
isn't a jury watching his character on trial just as this jury
watched a 16-year-old "unnamed" girl's character be defamed with rumors of gang association? From the newspaper stories alone, I know that the man is the sort of scum that meets underage girls at coffee shops and agrees to pay them for sex, despite being
married. He obviously pulled a gun on people who only had a knife. And he's a Shriner clown, a fact that somehow is important enough to be mentioned in all three articles. What kind of person is a Shriner, anyway?? It's creepy.
And yet, what's on the other side of the story? Two girls who decide to
rip off a dirty old man, and agree (even if they didn't mean it) to have
sex with him. A boy who came with them with a knife and stole stuff
from him. I don't understand this. I mean, I understand the events as
they happened. But... I don't have friends that do these things. I don't
mean simply breaking the law, or even stealing. I mean, being
intentionally hurtful and mean to people. Like robbery.
(The difference between theft and burglary and robbery: Theft is stealing. Burglary is stealing from a building (after breaking in). Robbery is stealing with the victim present and a threat of violence.)
So I don't know anyone who robs, and so I've never talked to anyone about
why they would rob. Or accepted it as something if not normal, plausible.
Complicating matters is that, according to her friends, Jessica was the instigator. It was her idea, and her that persuaded the others to come along. This is what I was told. But in the trial, and in the trials to come, will her friends speak so poorly of the dead? Will they instead claim responsibility?
The "Unbiased" Media
Having the perspective I did (already knowing the story), I was shocked
at the bias of the three newspaper stories. Maybe it's not as blatant to
everyone, but it glared out at me. There are, of course, obvious reasons
for it: the man was the "victim" in the trial, not the accused; and
society's unreasonable fear of non-conforming teenagers (pot! gangs! eek!). But you would think that a journalist would be trained to recognize these biases and keep them out of what they call "news". The bias belongs on the editorial page (where there was no mention of the case).
The reporters try to cover themselves by repeating over and over,
"...Hansen testified," "...Hansen said," so, technically, it wasn't the
reporters who told the story from Hansen's perspective, but Hansen
himself. Nothing from the girl's perspective was even mentioned, aside
from some small quotes.
Jessica's death lies buried in the second- or third-to-last paragraph in the stories and is completely unadorned with emotion or comment. As if it was an inconsequential detail; a by-product. As if a death like that was to be expected.
And the other thing that bugs me about these articles is the giving of
names and addresses. Is this peculiar to San Antonio (the setting of the
whole thing) or do most papers do this? They gave the full name, age, and
address of two suspects who are under age, and supposedly innocent
until proven guilty. And yet the paper is so very virtuous about not
releasing the name of the girl. What is this? The newspaper obviously
considers these kids throwaways.
So how do I process all this? Where do I put it? If I had only read the
newspaper articles (which I might just have skimmed otherwise), I probably
would have ended up with a similar bias. They deserved it.
But, really. Even without the realness of this particular death, when I
think longer about it, that seems ridiculous. Yes, these kids robbed a
man. They threatened him with a knifepoint and took some valuables. Does that call for the loss of one of your best friends, permanently and forever? Do you deserve to watch her die, bleeding, in your arms?
Does this crime really call for forty years in prison? We hear the
length of prison terms tossed around on the news all the time. But when I
think about a friend, or an acquaintance, spending the NEXT FORTY YEARS
of their life in prison, that seems ridiculous, unreal. She committed the
robbery when she was 16. When she got out of jail, she would be
fifty-six! What a waste of life.
Forty years is the maximum. Her sentence was fifteen years, which sounds reasonable only in contrast to forty years. However, she will be eligible for parole in three years. Is that just? I don't know. There is no question she participated in a robbery, though passively.
What angers me is the lack of consequence for the "victim". It's hard to
call him that when he started it all by propositioning two underage
girls. No criticism was heard about that. And HE KILLED A GIRL. Am I the
only one that really noticed this (other than her friends)? Why isn't he
required to defend his action? Does his volunteer work as a fucking
Shriner clown neutralize his predilection for statutory rape and pedophilia?
This is scary. When you think of it happening to someone you know. This is serious. I can't imagine going through a trial like this. It makes me sad, and frightened, for them.
So, I can't help but come down on the side of the kids. I have trouble
understanding what it is like to be them, even though I have had friends
who committed crimes. Mostly, I mourn for Jessica. I suppose her death
could be considered her fault or that of her friends. But I'm really not a fan of circumstantial blame. Hansen pulled the trigger.
I write about this because it has been occupying my mind, the struggle to
understand, to place this. I don't know how to end. It's really only beginning; a jail sentence for the girl; and a new sense of doom to the boys who are awaiting trial.