Archives for posts with tag: Gun Violence

For high schools this time of year, most students are getting ready for prom, baseball, graduation and vacation. Like most high schools, students struggled with subjects that they were probably not going to use the rest of their lives. The lives of the students at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, near Ft. Lauderdale, were about to undergo a change and it was a change that was as welcome as mosquitoes on a summer day in the Sunshine State.

Their peace and quiet as they knew would be changed forever and not for good. A former student, Nikolas Cruz, who once walked among them, shot his way through the school, sending students and teachers into hiding for their safety in the hopes that they would not be the next target. At the end of the horror and chaos, 17 people died, 14 of them students, three of them teachers and several more would be injured. Cruz would eventually be arrested and charged with the 17 deaths as well as the assault on the school. As of this writing, he sits behind bars without any chance of bail.

As for those that were injured, some will eventually recover, while others have injuries that will cripple them for the rest of their lives. Cruz took their peace and quiet and disrupted their lives, destroying that peace and quiet forever. Cruz, who was expelled from the same school that he attacked, is the poster child for the NRA. Cruz, through his appointed public defender, offered to plead guilty and take life without parole for his actions as long as the death penalty was taken off the table. So far, the District Attorney of Broward County and the Attorney General of the state of Florida have not made any decision or comment on that.

In the days following the massacre, students around the country planned a national walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that left 13 people dead.

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie told NBC he was proud of the students and their response to the horrific incident. “They are intelligent, they’re articulate, they’re passionate, and they’re committed to securing a safe future for themselves. This is their moment, this is their generation and they’re stepping up and doing what needs to happen,” he said. “I feel so encouraged that this time it will be different.”

Before the Stoneman Douglas students march on Washington, they headed to Tallahassee and spoke to state leaders and it was  Jaclyn Corin, a student who organized the visit. Corbin told the Miami Herald and NBC News, “We are the ones that looked into Nikolas Cruz’s eyes. We took 17 bullets to the heart. We are the only ones who can speak up. We have to be the adults in this situation because clearly people have us failed us in the government, and we must make the change now because we’re the only ones who are going to.”

The students that went to Tallahassee to speak to their leaders saw that failure come to light as house Republicans on Tuesday decisively blocked a move by Democrats to debate a ban on assault weapons in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at a Broward County high school.

The bill (HB 219), which would ban the sale and possession of semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines like the kind used by Cruz, has been mired in a House subcommittee for months and has not been heard. Amid rising tensions at the state Capitol, Democrats used a highly unusual procedure to move the proposal directly to the House floor for a debate and vote.

Republicans voted it down, 71 to 36. Several survivors of the massacre in Parkland, watching from the visitors’ gallery, were overcome with emotion and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media. They were also overcome with anger and righteous indignation.

These kids saw 17 of their friends die and the Florida Legislature, who were supposed to be their ally, chose party over their constituents. They failed the people of the state of Florida by not allowing discussion on HB 219, which would have effectively banned that type of weaponry in the state of Florida. This was their chance to beat swords into plowshares and do it in front of a group of students that recently lost 14 of their classmates and 3 of their teachers.

Instead of listening to their better angels, they chose to listen to the gun zealots and the NRA. They became cowards, plain and simple and there is hope that when these kids get out of college, they become legislators and vote you all out. While some of them were not old enough to drive, let alone vote, they chose an action that is respectful and peaceful. They let the world know that enough is enough. Their actions drew attention to a problem that needed to be addressed and addressed quickly before more people die needlessly.

That day, the Florida Legislature told the future voters of the Sunshine State that they didn’t give a damn about them. This is cowardice. The bigger question is this. When is going to end, when their child is shot or killed? 14 of their peers are dead. They will NEVER graduate from high school, have a Spring break, go to prom or Homecoming. 3 teachers dead, they will never stand in front of a group of students. They are gone forever and short of the Resurrection, they will never come back. Their blood is on the hands of the leaders they hoped would listen to them and protect them.

This in no way is an attempt to punish the people that own guns, the one that go through the PROPER channels to get a weapon and learn how to use it properly. Instead, it’s a call to our elected leaders to listen to their better angels and pass legislation that makes sense and if that means a re-write of the 2nd Amendment, so be it.

Recently, teachers were allowed to return to the school to get their cars and students were allowed to retrieve their personal belongings. They went back to school on Wednesday and when Wednesday came, there will be 17 fewer people at school. There will be fear and nerves that will be frayed. Those 17 that lost their lives will never walk those halls again. Their voices will be missed.

The elected adults failed the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and in the midst of the chaos, tears and blood being shed and anger, it was the students that chose the better course of action, a course of action that Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King would have approved. They took their anger and beat that anger into plowshares. They will further that action by registering to vote or voting in the upcoming midterm elections.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School chose to do what was right and challenge their leaders to do was right, not what was popular.

It’s time for the adults to follow suit.

In a few days, children across America will make their visits to Santa and hand him their lists as to what they want for Christmas. Gifts will be exchanged, Christmas parties will take place all over the nation, milk and cookies will be left for the fat man in the red suit, snow will be on the ground and carols will be sung in neighborhoods nationwide.

There will be 26 fewer singers that will be with them. Five years ago today, while most of the nation was getting ready for school or that last second Christmas shopping, Hell was released upon a school in Connecticut. December 14 was education’s equivalent to Pearl Harbor. Today is the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shooting that killed 20 students and six adults that were there to protect them.

The FBI recently released records that showed that Adam Lanza planned the killings that December morning. The report, which is more than 1,500 pages long, shows evidence that Lanza planned the shootings and had an interst in chidlren as well as some proof of pedophilia but no proof that he acted on that pedophilia. The records show that Lanza, who would eventually take his own life when he was cornered by law enforcement, began planning the attack as early as March of 2011.

According to the Associated Press and the Hartford Courant, the FBI behavioral analysis unit wrote, “the shooter did not ‘snap’ but instead engaged in careful, methodical planning and preparation. The shooter was ascinated with past shootings and researched them thoroughly. The shooter shared many similar characteristics and behaviors with other active shooters.”

Lanza’s killing spree began that Friday morning when he killed his mother at their Newton, Connecticut home before moving on to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The behavioral analysis unit document did not say what evidence there was that Lanza had a pedophilic interest in children. But another document says an unidentified woman told the FBI that Lanza said adult-child sexual relationships could be “possibly beneficial to both parties.”

The woman, who said she had an “online relationship” with Lanza for more than two years before the school shooting, said Lanza did acknowledge that adult-child sexual relationships could be “unhealthy” and did not express any personal sexual interest in children. She said Lanza believed he might be asexual. She also told the FBI that Lanza compiled a spreadsheet that meticulously documented hundreds of mass murders and spree killings but she didn’t believe he would carry out a mass killing and she said Lanza believed mass murders were a symptom of a broken society and may have believed he was “saving” children from the “harmful influences” of adults during the school shooting.

The documents offer a window into the early days of the investigation, as agents chased false leads and gathered evidence of Lanza’s isolation and include reports by FBI agents who interviewed people about Lanza. Portions of many of the documents were redacted, including the people’s names.

A year after the massacre, Connecticut state police released a final investigative document that concluded Lanza was obsessed with firearms, death and mass shootings but his motive may never be known. That report also mentioned pedophilia. In it, state investigators said they found on Lanza’s computer a file they described as “advocating pedophiles’ rights and the liberation of children.” They also said they found a screenplay describing a relationship between a 10-year-old boy and a 30-year-old man.

One person told an FBI agent that Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, had become concerned about him a month before the shooting because he had become a “shut in” who hadn’t gone anywhere in three months. Adam Lanza shot his mother to death in their home before going to the school. The person also told the FBI agent Adam Lanza never accepted he had Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum and never took medication he was prescribed.

A report by the Connecticut child advocate in 2014 concluded Lanza’s autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems didn’t cause or lead directly to the massacre. The report said Nancy Lanza rejected psychologists’ recommendations her son be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions. It said Adam Lanza, his parents and his educators contributed to his social isolation by not confronting his problems.

Another person told the FBI that Lanza essentially had become a “recluse” who played video games all day. The person said Lanza had no friends, was computer savvy and became very interested in firearms. Lanza also did not want pets in the family home and did not like to be touched when he was getting a haircut.

So we know more now about Adam Lanza than we did that December day. Given what we know now, Lanza was a troubled soul, short of being egotistical who didn’t care for anyone but himself. Lanza knew right from wrong and in the legal sense, that’s called “depraved indifference,” in which a person that commits a crime knows that it’s wrong but does it anyway.

26 people are no longer with us and the 20 children that he shot can’t come back to us and tell us what happened. The report is long and lenghty and while some of the information has been redacted for the sake of privacy, so not to cause further harm to those family members that lost a child that day. They’ve suffered enough. Granted, Adam Lanza is not with us to tell his side of the story or face justice, which could have happened had he not taken his own life. As for the house that the Lanza family lived in? It’s been torn down. There’s nothing there.

Period.

No creature will ever stir there.

Even the birds will shun the place.

Christmas will come. Gifts will be exchanged, Santa will make his rounds and children will have their lists. It’s a sure bet that Adam Lanza made the naughty list. That December morning, while some of us were getting ready to start our school days or finish that shopping, a madman came in and caused harm that will take years if not a millenium to heal. The flaws that Adam Lanza had were exposed for all the world to see and there are those that do not want his name uttered again ever. Adam Lanza tried to drag everyone into his own Hell and failed. There will be no roads named for him, no hospitals will have his name attached to their walls and don’t expect any Adam Lanza Elementary Schools in the distant future.

The window to Adam Lanza has been opened and while the view is not paradise by any means, it gives us a clearer picture as to what happened that day and why. Some of the questions have been answered by this report. Granted, there are 26 people that will never be heard from and that includes Lanza and his mother.

December 14 fell on a Thursday this year. Those that were killed will be remembered in some form and they should not be forgotten. Five years ago today, 20 children who wanted nothing more than to sit on Santa’s lap and tell them their Christmas wishes were silence, as were the six adults that were there to teach and protect them. For those like Rush Limbaugh and Adam Jones that insist that Sandy Hook never happen, they need to read the FBI report or keep silent. As for the NRA, at best they should be held liable (if not criminally responsible) for what happened.

Let’s hope they are NOT forgotten.

For the people of Newtown, Connecticut, Christmas came and Christmas went. Packages were opened, gifts were handed out, shrieks of childhood joy filled the homes of the Connecticut town. New Year’s Day came and went as well, as people counted down 2016 in the hopes of a better 2017.

For 26 families in Newton, the celebration was somewhat somber if not muted. 20 children will never see another Christmas or leave milk and cookies for Santa. Six teachers will never exchange gifts with families and friends. They will never see a New Year’s Day Parade or football game, go to a prom, get married or have their own children.

December 14th marked the four-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took their lives. On December 14th, the town held a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the shooting. In their honor and to remember those that perished, Newtown first selectman Pat Llodra asked town employees to refrain from doing any work, including answering phones, between 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., the time that the shootings took place. As for the schools in Newton, it was going to be a regular school day but School Superintendent Joseph Erardi said there would be quiet reflections and age-appropriate messages for students.

While the rest of America on the East coast was getting ready to start their school day and most of America was about to start their workday or go Christmas shopping, Adam Lanza decided to take matters into his own hands by first shooting and killing his mother, then go on his rampage, which ended with his death at his own hands.

President Barack Obama said in a Facebook post that the anniversary was a day to remember staff and teachers who guided children to safety, the first responders and the victims.

“And we remember the children who held each other in the face of unconscionable evil; who, even as they’ve grown up in the shadow of this tragedy, will grow up loved and cared for more fiercely than ever,” Obama wrote.

26 people dead. Murdered. They will never meet Santa, will never go to a Christmas party or a Midnight mass again. Their parents, families and friends deprived of love and joy because of a crazed man that decided to take himself out of the world instead of facing justice. This is in no way an attempt to get rid of guns or do away with the 2nd Amendment; rather, this is the time for medical experts, educators, victims and the advocates of those that are no longer with us, legislators and the NRA to sit at table and have a meaningful discussion. It’s not going to be easy and there will be resistance but if even one life is saved, it’s worth the battle.

In a few days, it will be Valentine’s Day. Cards will be passed out and exchanged and cupcakes will be consumed. For Sandy Hook Elementary School, there will be 26 fewer cards passed out and 26 fewer cupcakes eaten. Here’s to hoping that Lanza’s name will never pass the lips of those that are still there, that it will NEVER be uttered again, either here on Earth or in Heaven. Here’s to hoping that those cupcakes will be consumed and those cards passed out in their honor.

He was a non-conformist, a quitter on life that turned his hatred into murder against those that had done him no harm. James Holmes caused mayhem was an angry quitter who gave up on life and killed 12 people, fueled by that hatred. He was found guilty by a jury of his peers last July and would eventually be sentenced to life without parole in a Colorado prison.

Today in an Aurora, Colorado courtroom, in the same courtroom that saw his murder trial play out like an movie, Superior Court Judge Carlos A. Samor, Jr. made it official.

Life without the possibilty of parole for the 12 murders plus 3,000 additional years for attempted murder and an explosives conviction. James Holmes will draw his final breath behind bars. Holmes will never be able to touch or see freedom again, let alone smell it. While some wanted Holmes to die by lethal injection, Samour noted that the trial was fair, even if some were upset that he would not be killed by the state.

“I believe in the system,” Samour said. “I said that before and I’ll say it again. I believe in the system.”

According to the Associated Press and KUSA-TV, Samour first spent more than half an hour defending the integrity of the justice system and disputing complaints that the trial was a waste of time and noted the proceedings, while gave family members an opportunity to tell the world about their slain loved ones and provided survivors the chance to talk about their ordeal.

More than 100 victims and survivors testified this week about the searing physical and emotional scars the 2012 shooting has left.

Holmes’ mother, Arlene, was the final witness to take the lectern Tuesday. She said her son feels remorse for his deadly attack on a Colorado movie theater. She said his mental illness and medications make it hard for him to express it.

“We know that is very, very hard for people to see,” she testified. “We cannot feel the depths of your pain. We can only listen to everything you have expressed, and we pray for you. … We are very sorry this tragedy happened and sorry everyone has suffered so much.”

To the end, Holmes’ state-appointed attorneys blamed the massacre on his schizophrenia and psychotic delusions, tellng the world that their client was was obsessed with the idea of mass killing since childhood, pursuing neuroscience in an effort to find out what was wrong with his brain.

Prosecutors pointed both to Holmes’ elaborate planning for the attack and his refusal to divulge to anyone — family, friends, psychiatrists — that he was thinking, and planning murder.

Holmes stockpiled guns and ammunition and mapped out the Aurora theater complex to determine which auditorium would allow for the most casualties and even went so far as to calculate police response times.

Defense attorney Daniel King said Tuesday Holmes will not appeal his conviction, sparing victims the possibility of another emotionally wrenching trial.

Holmes’ sentencing hearing was largely symbolic but gave scores of victims an unprecedented chance to vent their feelings to the judge. They told him of flashbacks and nightmares, of relentless survivor’s guilt and enduring physical pain.

James Holmes planned his shooting spree, planning it ever so carefully, like a surgeon making sure he or she made the right incision in the right spot. His actions caused death, chaos and sadness and in the end, 12 people are dead and hundreds were injured because of his actions. James Holmes cared only for himself. James Holmes fed his ego with his hatred, playing by his own rules. In the end, a jury of his peers said “we will separate you from society for your actions and punish you for them.”

James Holmes will probably spend the rest of his days in a cell 23 hours a day with one hour of exercise. He will probably eat his meals in that cell, not having any contact with any other human being aside from his attorney and guards, will grow old behind bars and will draw his last breath behind those bars. His punishment will be banishment from society and will never know love or joy.

James Holmes chose to play by his own rules and then tried to fake insanity. A jury said, “no, you knew what you were doing was wrong and we don’t believe you.” James Holmes will draw his final breath behind bars and when that time comes, there will probably be no tears shed. He will get a mention in the media and mourned by his family but nothing more. His flame will be put out. The tribe has spoken.

James Holmes will never know what freedom looks like again. A monster has been sent away, never to cause trouble for the community that he tortured by his actions and hatred. The monster has been dealt with. He will never harm anyone else again.

The people of Aurora, Colorado had a monster on their hands. It was one of their own. James Dillon Holmes chose to take the law into his own hands on July 20, 2012, killing nine citizens and wounding over 70 that wanted nothing more than to watch a movie before the weekend started.

Holmes walked into the theater No. 9 screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” like other patrons. He then walked out through a rear door, which he left propped open. Just after midnight, some 18 minutes after the movie “The Dark Knight” began, he returned wearing a ballistic helmet, a gas mask, black gloves and protective gear for his legs, throat and groin.

A tear gas canister exploded in the theater, then gunfire erupted from an AR-15 rifle, a 12-gauge shotgun and at least one .40 caliber handgun. The shooting stopped with Holmes’ arrest outside the theater about seven minutes after the first 911 calls were made to police. Police had another problem on their hands. In his apartment, there were several explosive devices that were set as booby traps if law enforcement tried to enter. Thankfully, the apartment complex was evacuated and the explosives were taken out of commisson.

It took almost four years to bring the monster to trial but the townspeople got what they wanted and deserved. Nine people had died at his hands and their families and friends seeked justice. In a trial that took all of May, June and July, jurors with ties to Columbine listened to both sides present their case.

“The evidence is clear that he could not control his thoughts, … he could not control his actions and he could not control his perceptions,” defense attorney Dan King said during closing arguments. They admitted that his actions were wrong but begged the jury to spare his client’s life.

Prosecutors — who called more than 200 witnesses to the stand, among them investigators, students who knew Holmes and his ex-girlfriend — insisted the shooter knew well what he was doing. He acted deliberately to deliver pain and his mental issues shouldn’t excuse him from paying the price, they argued.

“Look at the evidence, then hold this man accountable,” Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler said in his closing argument. “Reject this claim that he didn’t know right from wrong when he murdered those people and tried to kill the others. … That guy was sane beyond a reasonable doubt and he needs to be held accountable for what he did.”

Jurors reached a verdict Thursday and reached in almost 12½ hours with the jury starting deliberations Wednesday morning. In the end, it was justice that won that Thursday afternoon in Aurora, 15 miles outside Denver. 165 charges.

165 guilty verdicts. It was as if they had hit a homer with the bases loaded, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the home team trailing.

In 2013, the prosecution signaled it would seek the death penalty. They may very well get that wish.

The shooter’s parents, Robert and Arlene Holmes, were regulars in court during their son’s trial and while they did not speak to the media, they have written two open letters and published a prayer book that detailed the family’s struggle, while pleading for his life to be spared. In one of those letters that appeared in the Denver Post in December 2014, the couple wrote “We have spent every moment for more than two years thinking about those who were injured, and the families and friends of the deceased who were killed, in the theater shooting in Aurora. “We are always praying for everyone in Aurora. We wish that July 20, 2012, never happened.” While they don’t deny that their son had a hand in the murders, they also said they didn’t think he should have been put on trial or even convicted and possibly dying in prison, given his mental state.

“James (Holmes) is not a monster. He is a human being gripped by a severe mental illness,” his parents wrote. “We believe that the death penalty is morally wrong, especially when the condemned is mentally ill.” Had he not been found guilty by reason of insanity (or mental defect, as it is called in most states), he would have been sentenced to the state hospital in Pueblo until doctors deem him safe to leave. With the guilty verdicts, the trial will enter a sentencing phase in which the jury must decide between life in prison or the death penalty.
According to Dr. Max Watchtel, Psychologist for KUSA-TV, there will be relief and anger.

Relief. Relief that the jury rejected the defense’s claim that the shooter was insane.

On Wednesday, the jury will begin hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense on the sentence they should impose—their options are life in prison without parole and the death penalty.

Jurors will hear the prosecutors point out how heinous and deplorable the shooter’s actions were on the night of July 20, 2012 and how he deserves death.

From defense attorneys, jurors will hear a very different story. They will hear tales of a normal childhood, friends in college and awards won. They will hear about the mental illness that gripped the shooter and how his life should be spared because of that uncontrollable illness.

And then, jurors will hear from the victims. This is where the anger may come into play.

They have already heard stories from victims about their experiences in the theater and the wounds they sustained. But in the trial phase, those stories were limited for a number of legal reasons.

During the sentencing phase, victims will be allowed to talk about the impact the shooting has had on their lives over the last three years: the nightmares, the multiple surgeries, the broken relationships, the isolation. No punches will be pulled. Emotions will be as raw as a carrot pulled from the Earth. Tears will be shed and those that lost loved ones could direct that anger toward Holmes. To quote the Episcopalians, “no secrets will be hid.”

Dr. Wachtel said that for the jurors who have already heard months of emotional testimony, the next several weeks will be grueling. Many jurors who go through a capital-murder trial develop mental illnesses of their own, with depression and anxiety being the most common. They will be forced to listen to horrifying stories and they will be begged to have mercy for the man who caused that horror.

Despite the sentence they decide upon, the juror’s lives will be forever changed by their experience and they can add themselves to the list of victims of the Aurora theater shooting.

Jonathan Blunk, Alexander Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Thomas Larimer, Matthew McQuinn, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves, Rebecca Ann Wingo, Medek and the youngest victim, Moser-Sullivan. They will never come back to us, short of the ressurection. They are no longer with us on this Earth and thusly, cannot speak to us. The 12 jurors that heard evidence and did not buy the defense’s notion of insanity spoke for them. They spoke loudly. They spoke clearly. They spoke 165 times in a voice that was strong and clarion.

James Holmes acted as though we as judge and jury. On that night July night in a theatre in Aurora, he acted as executioner. The people of Arapahoe County saw it differently. 165 charges. 165 verdicts. The jury batted 1.000 and you can’t get any better than that.

This week, Holmes will learn his sentence as the jury will decide if he dies a natural death and leave things in God’s hands or they bypass the Almighty and put a needle in his arm. Even with the death penalty on the table and assuming that all 12 jurors agree that he should die by lethal injection, it will be years if not decades before the executioner gets his (or her) hands on him. We can be certain of one thing and that James Holmes will never draw breath as a free man.

James Holmes tried to change his looks during the trial. James Holmes tried to fake insanity. James Holmes failed and failed miserably. 165 counts. 165 guilty verdicts. Major EPIC fail. James Holmes will return to the same courtroom that convicted him and will learn if he draws his last breath behind bars or the executioner get his (or her) hands on him.

The people of Aurora and Arapaho County spoke loudly and clearly. They not only spoke for the nine victims that could not, they spoke for the community and the 70 that were wounded. They will get a chance to speak again this week with the penalty phase. James Holmes could have listened to his better angels that night in July. He chose to ignore them completely. He knew right from wrong and his actions took nine lives and cost him his freedom and could very well cost him his life.

The people of Aurora, Colorado had a monster on their hands and like in those old movies, they raised their torches and pitchforks and dealt with the monster. The monster known as James Holmes will never know freedom, let alone touch it. A jury of his peers said that he is accountable and will draw his final breath on this Earth behind bars. The bigger question is will he die at God’s hands or will the state of Colorado kill him.

Who will win that race?

It’s anyone’s guess.

The jurors and the charges

The twelve people who deliberated the case included nine women and three men with two having close ties to the 1999 Columbine shooting.

Juror 640: A white woman whose daughter is in the Army and whose son is in the Marines. She doesn’t watch the news, and is a union plumber.

Juror 17: White woman in her 40s or 50s who works as a lawyer and is a caregiver for her elderly parents.

Juror 329: White woman in her 20s who is a volunteer victims’ advocate in Aurora.

Juror 535: Middle-age white woman whose ex-husband works as a police officer. Her niece was in the cafeteria at Columbine High School the day of the shooting.

Juror 87: Middle-age white woman who says her son is a drug addict and who has struggled with depression in the past.

Juror 118: White woman and physicist with degrees in psychology and mathematics. Competitive shooter.

Juror 378: White woman in her 50s who worked as a paramedic transporting mentally ill patients.

Juror 155: Middle-age white man in his 50s who was living in California when the shooting happened. He said he doesn’t know much about the case.

Juror 527: White man in his 30s who works as a store manager at Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Juror 737: White man in his 20s or 30s who was in Columbine High School during the shooting. He says the perpetrators were his good friends until eighth grade and that he went to prom with one of the victims. He wound up being the foreperson in the trial.

Juror 557: A middle-age white woman in her 30s or 40s. She says mental illness isn’t an excuse for committing a terrible crime.

Juror 311: A middle-age white woman who wanted to hear from Holmes’ parents.

The Charges

Counts 1 – 12
First-degree murder – after deliberation

•The full formal charge, which was read aloud in court is: “On or about 7/20/2012, James Eagan Holmes unlawfully, feloniously, after intent to cause the death of a person other than himself, caused the death of [VICTIM]; in violation of section 18-3-102(1)(a), C.R.S.”
•This is the first of two theories of murder being charged. It means he planned to kill the victim, then he did.

Counts 13 – 24
First-degree murder – extreme indifference

•This is the second of two theories of murder being charged. In layman’s terms, it means he maliciously did something that could kill a person, and then he killed a person.
•The full formal charge, which was read aloud in court is: “On or about 7/20/2012, James Eagan Holmes unlawfully and feloniously, under circumstances evidencing an attitude of universal malice manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life generally, knowingly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death to persons other than himself, and thereby caused the death of [VICTIM]; in violation of section 18-3-102(1)(d), C.R.S.”

Counts 25 – 94
Attempted first-degree murder – after deliberation
•Similar to the murder charges, one of two theories. This one similar to counts 1-12.
•One charge for each of the 70 injured victims.

Counts 95 – 164

•Similar to the murder charges, one of two theories. This one similar to counts 13-24.
•One charge for each of the 70 injured victims.

Count 165
Possession of an explosive or incendiary device
•This charge stems from Holmes booby-trapping his apartment with an elaborate setup of explosive material.

He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Judas Iscarot sitting among Jesus. There were nine of them that welcomed him into their circle at a bible study on Wednesday night in Charleston. While most of America was going about its business last Wednesday night, Dylann Roof read and studied scripture with them. Then, like Judas, he betrayed the people that he sat among.

Roof then went on to kill nine people that he had met earlier and then fled to Shelby, North Carolina. It didn’t take the autrhorities long to find him and he eventaually surrendered without incident. Shackled, handcuffed and wearing a bullet-proof vest, he was led out of the Cleveland County, North Carolina courthouse and taken back to Charleston by plane, waiving extraditon back.

Confessing to the crimes, Roof returned to South Carolina to face justice. Friday was his first chance to see a judge, which is a formality in many states. He didn’t see him face to face, instead seeing the judge via closed-circuit televison. A few of the family members of his victims spoke, telling the 21-year old Roof that they forgave him and to seek God. With that and given the seriousness of his crimes, bail was denied for the nine murders. For the use of a gun in the commission of a felony, his bail was set at $1 million. South Carolina law dictates that he would not be allowed out on bond.

Experts say that the case could last between six months if he were to plead guilty or up to three years if the death penalty — which is legal in South Carolina — is pursued. The jail’s protocol dictates that he will be placed on suicide watch immediately and given the high-profile nature of the crime and sensitivity about the crime itself, legal experts also said that Roof will not have contact with the general jail population for his own safety. Roof’s first hearing was done via CCTV link Friday afternoon, with his next hearing slated for October 23.

It would appear to some that Roof will probably not draw breath a free man and some are calling for him to die by lethal injection should he be found guilty of nine counts of murder. Even his own uncle, Carson Cowles, says he will “push the button myself” if his nephew receives the death penalty, which is legal in South Carolina. “I’ll be the one to push the button. If he’s found guilty, I’ll be the one to push the button myself,” Cowles said. “If what I am hearing is true, he needs to pay for it.”

On a website, Roof wrote “I have no choice I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world and I guess that has to be me.” In one picture, Mr. Roof is shown posing with wax figures of slaves. In others, he posed with a handgun. He is alone in all the photos, which appear to have been taken at a slave plantation, Sullivan Island, South Carolina and at the Museum and Library of Confederate History.

The website links to several pages of long racist rants. Some describe Hispanics as enemies and say that “Negroes” have lower I.Q.s and low-impulse control. The writings are not signed. The domain site was registered in February under the name Dylann Roof. Roof hails from Columbia, South Carolina and is a high school dropout and unemployed landscaper.

If ever there was an argument for premeditation, Dylann Roof fits the bill. Dylann Roof is the poster child for the NRA and for politicians that are sucking at their teats. This is not to say that those gun owners that follow the rules, fill out the proper paperwork and have nothing in their background that would stop them from owning a weapon or ammunition. It’s not just that, it’s issues with mental health, race, gender, social standing and sexual preference. Dylan Roof had his differences with people of other races. That’s fine. That’s his right as a citizen. What he did not have was the right to go to Charleston to shoot and kill nine people that he didn’t know. When he pulled the trigger that Wednesday evening, he crossed a line that he had no right to cross. There has to be a dialouge among gun owners, clergy, teachers, doctors and those that have lost family and friends to gun violence. The NRA and those that support that group need to be at the table to listen to those family members that lost loved ones at Columbine, Sandy Hook and Charleston.

Dylan Roof sits in a jail cell in Charleston and waits his fate and in a ironic twist of luck and or fate, his cell is next to Michael Slager, the former police officer who shot Walter Scott in the back a few months ago, are jail neighbors. Roof is being held in cell 1141B and Slager is in 1140B. Slager was indicted on June 8 and if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

When you own a gun, you are expected to use it with a great deal of responsibilty. When you purchase a gun, there is a form that you have to fill out for every weapon you purchase, whether you purchase that gun in a sporting good store or a department store and there are NO exceptions and it should be that way at the gun shows that dot our nation every weekend. It’s time to close the loopholes. It’s time to punish not just the people that purchase a gun without going through the proper channels but the sellers as well, with the only exception being if a gun is being passed on from one generation to another. Killers are almost getting away with murder and the NRA is acting as if they are Pilate and are washing the blood off their hands. Dylann Roof needs to be made an example.

Dylann Roof was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While it may be insulting to wolves, it’s a truth that cannot and should not be ignored. Nine people were needlessly killed by a man that they took into their fold. Dylan Roof acted as a coward and took nine lives that he had no right to take. In time, he will be punished for his actions and possibly sentenced to death in the event that the state of South Carolina wants to pursue that route. There will be a trial, there will jury selection, witnesses and victim impact statement should a guilty verdict come. There could also be the fact that Roof could plead guilty and avoid a trial. In any case, Dylann Roof will draw his last breath on Earth behind bars in a prison in South Carolina. We need to understand that this process cannot and should not be rushed. After all, this isn’t TV, where the case is solved in one hour and the credits roll at the end of the show. Dylann Roof rightfully needs to have his feet held to the fire, so to speak. The process is not going to be easy and at times, it will look like it’s going slower than we want it to. It will make us angry and cuss like a drunken Marine on shore leave. Be patient. It is what it is.

The doors at New Emmanuel AME opened Sunday morning and there was a church service. Church bells tolled Sunday morning, nine times in nine minutes, one toll for each victim. There were nine less people there but they were and will not be forgotten. In time, their deaths will be avenged and their funerals will have taken place. If ever there was a time for a dialouge about gun control, now is the time. If we have learned nothing else from Columbine, Sandy Hook and Charleston, it’s that loopholes need to be closed and guns need to kept out of the hands that don’t need or deserve them, not the people that are playing by the rules. The dead cannot speak and we the living have to be their voice and advocate.

Dylann Roof is going to be held accountable for his actions, which he admitted. Dylann Roof will draw his final breath on this Earth behind bars. Dylann Roof sat among his victims, shook hands and even spoke to the people that he would eventually kill.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing sits caged, awaiting its fate. A wolf fed by hate now sits alone in a cage that he all but made for himself, in a hell that he chose to create.

Sunday as America remember the 26 that died at Sandy Hook Elementary School two years ago, President and First Lady Obama lit 26 candles to honor the fallen as well as observing a moment of silence. Yesterday was the second anniversary of Adam Lanza’s shooting spree that started at his mother’s house, when he shot her before going to the school to kill 20 students and six teachers before eventually turning the gun on himself.

Since that day, where most of America was getting ready to send school children home for the Christmas holiday, there have been calls by citizen to take some form of action to at least prevent gun violence in our schools. Unfortunately, those calls have fallen on deafened and greedy ears. Since the December 14th Newtown killings, there have been more at least 44 school shootings on K-12 or college campuses in 24 states, according to a new report.

In a post on the Washington Post’s website, Marie Corfield, an art teacher in New Jersey, an activist and more importantly, a mother, wrote an open letter to elected officials not just asking them to do something. She begged them. The letter appeared on her blog, which she gave the newspaper permission to post.

Here’s the letter in its entirity.

Dear Elected Officials,

Two years ago today I stood in the hallway of my K-4 school and said to a coworker, “Did you hear? There was another school shooting—at an elementary school. They shot kindergarteners.” I remember looking at the little ones who were passing us on their way to class and thinking, it could have been them; it could have been us. According to Moms Demand Action, there have been almost 100 school shootings since that horrendous day at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children and 6 adults were murdered by an insane gunman.

It’s been two years since the parents of those children hugged them tight and said goodbye as they walked into their school for the very last time.

Two years, and nothing has been done, but not for lack of trying on the parts of some very dedicated public servants on both sides of the aisle. Why? Why are only some of you trying and not every single one of you?

“It’s not the right time to talk about gun violence,” you say.

“We have to let the families mourn,” you say.

“We don’t want to politicize such a tragic event,” you say.

Well, I say, “Baloney!” Every single time a child dies from gun violence—whether in Newtown, Connecticut Newark, New Jersey, is the exact time we should talk about preventing it. Gun violence is a preventable public health crisis. If We the People truly love our children—all children—we would make saving them our top priority.

Thanks to those of you who are more afraid of offending the gun lobby than protecting our children, our schools have become prisons for the innocent. Every door is locked at all times lest an intruder find a closet or empty classroom in which to hide. Fire drills are now accompanied by a new set of drills with menacing names like ‘active shooter’, ‘lock down’, ‘lock out’ or ‘Code C’ (C for Columbine?) And the students know why—even the little ones. They know and they’re afraid but we do our best to calm their fears and change the subject. Back in the 50′s and 60′s when ‘duck and cover’ drills were practiced, it was because of a threat from a place beyond most young children’s comprehension: the Soviet Union or Cuba, somewhere over ‘there’, far away. Now the threat is very real, yet completely unpredictable. Is it that kid in 3rd period chemistry or the one who always sits by himself at lunch or the star football player? Who knows which one will snap, and when—and if they’ll have a gun?

While many of you have been busy slashing education funding to the bone, school districts across this country are scraping together scarce resources to upgrade entrances to make them impervious to gunfire, installing bullet-proof glass, metal detectors, baggage scanners, panic buttons, state-of-the-art surveillance systems, and devices that can instantly detect a sexual predator simply by scanning a drivers license. More and more now have armed police on premises all day. I’m sorry but I didn’t see a line item for these expenses in the recent appropriations bill. Did I miss something?

Because of your failure to act, school culture has also changed. What was once harmless child’s play is now grounds for suspension. Drawing a battle scene between aliens and soldiers on a piece of paper could land a second grader in the guidance office. Darth Vader must leave his light saber home during the Halloween parade.

All this keeps children safe but it does not keep them free. You imprison them and the nation because you are more beholden to the gun lobby and its big checkbook than you are to the will and safety of the American people—including many responsible gun owners. The more schools feel like prisons, the shorter the school to prison pipeline becomes.

The new normal for many of America’s children is anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder because they live with the daily fear and the real possibility of being injured or killed by a gun. For some, the feeling is merely background noise like, ‘look both ways before crossing the street, and be careful because some lunatic with a gun could kill me in school’. For others it’s a 50-piece marching band parading through their head because now, not only are their neighborhoods and homes not safe from gun violence, their schools—the one place where many gained respite—are perceived unsafe, too. It alters their brain chemistry. It keeps them from learning and living and becoming the best version of themselves.

In a few short weeks many of you will be sworn in to begin a new term of service but who will you serve? It has become glaringly apparent in light of recent Supreme Court decisions that the will of the people has been usurped by the will of corporations and powerful lobbies. When does a child’s right to live supersede the wants of the NRA? When do all of you who wear the Bible on your sleeve, who are so concerned about what goes on inside a woman’s body, start putting the Fifth Commandment before the Second Amendment when it comes to protecting children from gun violence?

In order for the Constitution to work, we need laws that strengthen and enhance its tenets. There is more than enough room in our society for the Second Amendment and sensible gun legislation. We need national laws that make the consequences of illegal sales, possession, use and trafficking of firearms swift and severe. We need background checks for every, single gun purchase. And we need laws that will help keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. These laws can be enacted without compromising the rights of the millions of law-abiding gun owners but that requires you to serve We, the People not We, the Corporations.

Despite Governor Christie’s best efforts, a recent report says that I live in one of the safest states in the nation in terms of gun violence. That said, the lives of too many children in New Jersey are ended by a bullet. Clearly, the state still has work to do:

New Jersey still doesn’t require a background check for every firearm sale and has not passed a law banning .50-caliber rifles… Nearly 75 percent of guns discovered at crime scenes in the state were imported from outside New Jersey…

“Unfortunately, trafficked firearms purchased in nearby states with weak gun laws are inundating New Jersey,” said the report, which called for a new strong federal statute to make gun trafficking a federal crime. (emphasis mine)

While the article goes on to say that a recent Pew Research Center poll found that “52 percent of Americans favor gun rights, compared with 46% opting for gun control”, Media Matters reports that the polling questions are deeply flawed and do not accurately reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans. So, please don’t hide behind the banner of the “will of the people” on this one because it just ain’t so.

I was in Frenchtown, New Jersey in March 2013 when 26 cyclists from Newtown, dressed in Sandy Hook’s colors of green and white, stopped by on their way to Washington, DC to lobby for stricter gun control legislation. I heard their impassioned calls to end the slaughter of our children. I listened to Mike Pohle, a fellow Raritan Township resident, choke back tears as he talked about the tragic loss of his teenage son in the Virginia Tech massacre. The Newtown Action Alliance wasn’t calling for an all-out gun ban. They simply wanted common sense reforms like those mentioned above. But that didn’t happen because too many of you were more concerned about the green of your campaign coffers than the green of the ribbons they wore.

The loss of a child is the greatest tragedy anyone will ever face. During this holiday season, in far too many homes across this country, stockings will be hung, candles lit, places set, gifts wrapped and prayers said for children who are no longer there. Scabs will be ripped off, old wounds exposed, hearts broken all over again as families remember what was and grieve for what could have been. Corporations won’t be doing that. Neither will lobbies. Their doors will be closed, the lights off, they will be home with their families.

Please remember that as you celebrate the season with your family, with your children. Please remember that when you are sworn in next month. Please remember to do what’s right, not what’s easy. The very lives of our children are depending on you.

Sincerely,

Marie

Marie’s letter makes a lot of sense. There is plenty of room at the table for those that want to keep children safe as well as those that want to own guns. It’s not that we want to punish the ones that are following the rules, going through background checks and making sure their weapons are secure when they’re not in use, it’s about our elected leaders that say they listen to us and yet take donations from the NRA. Nothing against the NRA but it’s time that they step up and do what’s right. It’s time that our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle listen to the people that put them in office, not the special interest groups and surely not the NRA.

The 2nd Amendment says you have the right to own a gun. Fine. I can accept that and I don’t have a problem with it. It doesn’t give anyone the right to go into a school and kill 26 people, like Adam Lanza did. The sad thing is that Adam Lanza escaped justice when he turned the gun on himself. It’s time to fix the flaws. It’s time to do what is right, not what is popular, as Paul wrote in the New Testament. Sandy Hook was a tragedy that might have been averted if Lanza’s mother had said no to him having a gun. We’re getting tired of funerals for children.

Common sense reforms. Plain and simple.

Again, it’s not about punishing the ones that are playing by the rules, it’s keeping the ones that don’t need or deserve to have a gun in check and away from them if not for our good, then for theirs.

20 parents will never see their children open gifts this Christmas. They will never have the satisfaction of seeing them drive a car for the first time, go to prom, graduate from high school and college and will never have grandchilren. They are gone forver. They can’t come back to speak to us, short of the second coming. Doing what’s right is a lot better than easy. It’s hard and there are going to be some that will disagree. That’s fine. At least there’s a dialouge going on. We all need to come to the table and listen to each other, not talk at each other, not say “you’re wrong and I’m right.” We can agree to disagree and that’s fine. That’s the thing that makes this nation what it is. Yelling at each other does nothing but gets your blood pressure up and a sore throat.

It’s time to listen to our better angels. After all, it’s what the 20 kids that died would have wanted.