Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Postscript to the murder of a young friend

Some months ago, I wrote a personal reflection about the death penalty, which you can read by clicking HERE. My reflection was prompted by going to the life imprisonment sentencing in Sacramento on July 1 of two men convicted of murdering a young friend of mine, Jim Arthur in June 2009.

Jim, a student and fledging artist, was only 23. One of the killers, Jonathan Baker, flew into a rage when he learned Jim was gay. Testimony showed that Jim was stabbed 176 times.

Jim was robbed in his mother's home, lured into a trap by a young woman who had befriended him, Nadine Klein, now 21. The jury could not reach verdict in her case, and a mistrial was declared.

Nadine Klein was back on trial this fall, and on Monday the second jury convicted her of first degree murder in the course of a burglary, which carries with it the sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. You can read the story in The Sacramento Bee by clicking HERE. Monday was also the sixth anniversary of the heart attack that took the life of Jeff Arthur, Jim's dad and my very close friend.

I pray that this nightmare for the Arthur family and my friends will now begin to end. I pray for the families of the murderers that they will find their way out of their own nightmare. I pray that I might learn how to pray for the murderers, for I know not how. And I pray for the jurors in these trials who have endured considerable anguish to carry out their civic duty and who receive no thanks from the public.

The other day, my friend Barbara Crafton wrote this about her recent experience on jury duty in New Jersey where she lives as serves as an Episcopal priest. Although she was not impaneled, I think it a good commentary on why we have juries and why ordinary people like us need to serve on them. Here it is from her "Geranium Farm" website:

By Barbara Crafton
I'm here, but I know they won't empanel me. They never do. So I sit in the waiting room with a hundred fellow citizens, and we have just taken our oath of office as jurors, administered by a judge who removed a wad of chewing gum from his mouth, befitting the solemnity of the moment.

As always, I allow myself to imagine myself in that tiny community of people who will hold the fate of another person in their hands. We would be carefully instructed as to what was and what was not our task. Some among us would forget, though, impatient with our constraints, and anoint themselves detectives or self-taught judges. Some would consider this afternoon a chance to "send a message" -- a message not directed at this courtroom or the parties in it at all, perhaps, but intended for a wider audience, one which might exist only in their imagination. Some would be highly intelligent. Some would not be. Some would hate being there. Some would love it.

We would be a jury of peers, for anyone who came before us: a mixed bag of commitment and anxiety, well and poorly equipped for this work. We would be little better or little worse than the people who looked to us for fairness. Most of us will sit here all day and then leave, never having had the chance to present the mixed bag of our service in an actual case. They say we won't be back for three years, but they said that a year ago, too. The last time I was called.

We divide power in here in the United States, forcing a check on any one part of us, insisting on balancing responsibility among us as best we can. Our judges don't work alone. Neither do our presidents or our legislators or our generals. The result may be clumsy affair, but it is ours.
Photo above of Jim Arthur.


Anonymous said...

Would a prayer for the murderers possibly be that their hearts would open so that they might truly understand and feel the horror of their act?

The Rev. James Richardson said...

That might be a start. But I don't even want them to have that much power that they think it important that I care whether their heart is changed. I don't seek revenge, and I don't believe "closure" is possible for anyone who loved Jim by anything that happens to these murderers. One of my problems with the death penalty is it feeds the notion that closure is possible through the death of the murderers.

I had a theology professor at seminary who proposed the idea that purgatory is the place where the victims, one-by-one, confront their attackers. He proposed the notion that Hitler sits there and has to listen to each victim of the Holocaust one person at a time for as long as it takes to do that. That seemed like greater punishment than simply vanishing into oblivion.

Thanks for this entry, and I would love to hear from others how to pray for the murderers and those who harm us.

Anonymous said...

My mother sat on the jury that just convicted Nadine. When it was finally over and she could freely speak, I spent nearly 5 hours listening as she poured out her heart and cried and told me what she had "taken in" all these weeks. She said that Jim seemed like a good, sweet man and that this trial took a piece of her soul.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Dear Anonymous,
Thank you for posting. Please pass along to your mother how grateful all of us are for her dedication to her public duty. She and all of the jurors are in our prayers, and may she and those who served find healing for their anguish.

Anonymous said...

I was in Sacramento County Jail with Nadine for almost 5 months during her trial. She seemed like an ok person but the thing that really made me cringe was the fact that she didn't seem like any of this bothered her. She smiled alot and never once showed any signs of remorse. she talked about the trial with everyone. My heart goes out to her victim and her baby.