What is the Sequoia project?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
One beer with a sober choice.
The phone rang and I learned about a young man who was being held in the local county jail. The police discovered him laying on the ground, being held by the people who accused him of stealing a beer from their garage.
The caller asked me if I would show up at this fellows preliminary hearing. A hearing that presents to the court evidence in their decision making process of finding justice. I wasn’t in a real hurry to go. I decided to ignore the thought in my head that said “Live and learn kid”. I was busy at the time he was to have his hearing but knew I could change my plans. I decided to go. Sometimes the people and places that need us the most are the places we want to visit least. The purpose of this project is to help change lives and to show we all can help others no matter where we live. When I arrived at the courthouse, and went up the stairs, it represented a lot to me. This was a building where justice is used in sorting through many different life issues. The goal is for the truth to be told. What I hoped to witness was seeing this process in action. How is the “truth” brought to the forefront?
I watched as everyone stood as the judge entered the room (myself included). This was to show respect to the judge. The judge has earned the respect because of their dedication (and representation) of the law. We are a country of laws and when one is broken in a criminal matter an accused offender has the right to speak in their behalf. That’s what makes our justice system different than other nations across the world. Think back to history where there was no law or when it was practiced unfairly. People were sometimes tied to a stake and burned innocently. Actions that were born from first a whisper.
When Jeff stood up to honor the judge I looked and wondered what was going on inside his mind. He was 18-years old and some past choices have landed him where he is today. Dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit and wanting mercy. I listen as his accusers swore to tell the truth so help them God.
I listen to a story of what Jeff was being accused of doing. He went into a garage of another and removed one beer. The owners of the garage caught him and held him until the police arrived. I watched as his attorney attempted to bring up the physical injuries that Jeff had suffered as a result of this incident. Each time the court denied him. Something happened to this young man yet the door remained closed in the courts search for the truth.
I can’t pretend to understand why courts rule the way they do. If this man is to stand justice then why can’t all the facts of that dark evening be told? Did his life, his blood, not matter in any of it? I’m sure that it was because of the type of hearing that was being held. The courts will certainly listen to the fact that he had to be seen by EMS. This will certainly be part of the events of that night. Right?
I plan on working with Jeff once he is released. What do I tell him about what just happen? How do I explain to him to respect a system that is showing him little? The name of the beer was allowed into the court hearing twice. His injuries not once.
He had no family standing with him on this day. He had the people who may have beaten him and a court that didn’t want to hear that day all the facts.
As I drove away I thought about it. Life is not fair. We all have unfair events and take blows in life. What a person does at this time matters. Maybe I can help him understand how his old ways found himself laying on the ground bleeding. What happen may not have been “fair”.
Jeff has the odds stacked against him right now. Odds are only numbers and each have a side. Somebody must have succeeded to become a number representing one side. Will Jeff be one of them? He made some bad choices that day. He picked up a bottle of pain thinking it was a bottle of fun. All of it started with one sober choice to drink that first sip of vodka earlier in the day.