A Killer Lives: A Child Dies
A letter arrived a few days ago from my friend David Murray, an
anthropologist, teacher, and father of three. I have asked for, and been
given, his permission to share it.
By Jeff Jacoby
If you can, look up a recent story here in Fairfax, Virginia, about the
murder of a 13-year-old boy whose body was discovered Christmas week. It
really says something about capital punishment, and about those who suffer
when justice isn't done.
Sometimes, you know, it isn't the facts and figures and ``issues.''
Sometimes it's just one case that slams you in the gut.
This kid was just 13. The pictures of him show a freckle-faced, eager
scamp, maybe getting new sneakers for Christmas, rushing to grow up, hungry
for life, hungry to get on with things. Soon there would be a car, maybe;
freedom, maybe. I imagine he was the kind of kid who'd pull a prank and then
run for it, or skateboard until he was breathless. I bet he wished he were
bigger and stronger, more of an athlete. He probably played hookey a lot and
got into some discipline in school.
But when he stayed up late and fell asleep on the couch, you could probably
pick him up in your arms and carry him upstairs and wipe damp hair from his
forehead, still warm with his intensity and his dreams. I'll bet he loved his
mom, deep down, no matter what he said when his friends were around.
His last waking minutes, it seems, were spent staring up and being brutally
violated for someone's lust. And when his human dignity was gone, his
innocence sullied, he felt something sharp plunge into his chest. And another
plunge. And another. Gasping, thrashing, his life in this world about to end,
he must have twisted frantically, like a trapped dog being smothered.
Struggling, panic, then -- darkness, God's sorrow, and finally only his
limp child's body, no longer worth the pleasure, thrown into a drainage pond
behind his house. There was no majesty in his going.
He ended in a frozen sinkhole, about 30 feet in diameter. It was where he
and his friends played when they were being daring. His body broke the ice
when he was flung in; it was found only when some police divers went out there
His mother had reported him missing two weeks earlier. The cops told her,
Yeah, there's a lot of that going around. Runaways, you know.
The mother and her family, maybe a bit disreputable to judge from the
newspaper photos, want to know why the cops just ignored them. Her son was
gone, dammit. What had happened to him? Why didn't the police care?
Well, now they've got the guy who it is alleged did it. `Buck,'
he's called, a guy from the neighborhood. Criminal record? Oh, yeah. In and
out of prison mostly in since 1970. Murder, malicious wounding,
maiming, kidnapping. Killed a prison inmate. Slashed a cab driver's throat and
left him for dead. Yet he was out on parole. Mandatory parole.
Twenty-five years' worth of victims, but Virginia set him free. Killer, sexual
deviant, cruel, homicidal -- or am I being too judgmental here?
Dammit, Jeff, this boy didn't have to die. The circle of those affected by
his death, as in a pool hit by a pebble, widens daily. His mother, her family,
his junior-high classmates. The family's friends, red-eyed with grief, pissed
at the cops and the system, feeling that they didn't count because they
weren't official ``victims,'' or O.J., or anybody at all -- just trailer-park
folks with a missing child. Now they're fodder for a well-coiffed TV
newswoman. Film at 11. Tsk-tsk, so shocking.
What I want to know is, where's Whoopi Goldberg and Ed Asner and maybe
Norman Mailer? Huh? Why aren't they here, hitting this hard, pointing out the
miscarriage of justice? They were sure there for Mumia Abu Jamal, who killed a
cop, and Leonard Peltier, the Native American who shot an FBI agent. They're
always there to protest when some butcher on Death Row is facing the chair.
Always there to denounce the system, demand justice. Disinterested ``civil
libertarians,'' serving the underdog.
Well, this underdog's name was Jonathan. He was denied his life because a
killer was turned loose rather than executed. No system of justice in recorded
history has ever equated the life of a murdered innocent child with that of a
homicidal, depraved predator. Jeff, ours does.
If Buck had faced justice after his first slaughter, Jonathan would still
be a boy with another day inside him, another jest, another chance at making
his mother proud. All he is now is a frozen corpse. That's it, end of story.
Why was this guy walking around free? Why was he still alive?
Ed? Whoopi? You got an answer for this, or are you busy preparing your next
rally against capital punishment? Ed? Whoopi? Why do you care more about
turning evil people loose in places you never walk, than you do about
the viciousness that follows once your famous heads are turned?
Ed, Whoopi, why don't you go home, please, and shut up. There are people
here who have to mourn a child's death. And after this one, there will be
Thanks for listening, Jeff. Take care,
Note from webmistress:
The victim in this case was 13 year old Jonathan Hall of Springfield (on
the south side of the Capitol Beltway in Virginia). He was sexually violated
and murdered with a screwdriver. On the morning he was discovered dead in an
icy pond near his home, his frozen right hand held evidence that he was alive
when his killers threw him in. His killer, James Arthur "Buck"
Murray, was a neighbor with a lengthy prison record. He had spent 25 of his
prior 43 years of life incarcerated. Murray pleaded guilty to the first degree
murder charges for the crime in 1996 and was sentenced to life imprisonment. A
16-year-old-neighbor, Jason Garrison, was also involved in the crime, helping
to hold down the victim and stabbing him a few times in the throat. Garrison
received a sentence of 23 years with a release date of 2017.
This column was published on Jan.12,
Jeff Jacoby is a staff columnist for The
His E-mail address is: email@example.com
times since 12/23/99