Cook column: Slow justice frustrates victims’ families
This column was published April 13, 2008.
Carolyn McIntyre called 911 and said her granddaughter had been shot.
“Please hurry … Please hurry,” she pleaded. She had heard gunshots, rushed across the street to the house where her granddaughter lived and found her bleeding body.
“Oh, dear God, please let her not be dead,” she said on the phone.
But 26-year-old Christina Affolter was dead, shot after intruders kicked in her front door and pulled the trigger at close range, according to reports in the Post.
It happened around 4 a.m. on May 16, 2006. Investigators said the motive appeared to be robbery. A friend who was in the house with Christina survived his gunshot.
Nearly two years later, the five men charged in Christina’s murder are awaiting trial. And when McIntyre saw one of them mentioned in a Post story about jail overcrowding last month, it set her on fire.
So what, she said, if he’s having to double up with another inmate in a cell designed for one person? She thinks a box the size of a coffin like the one Christina was buried in would be more appropriate.
It’s an understatement to say McIntyre resents the fact that that inmate and his co-defendants are alive and Christina is dead. Two years after the murder, she is seething about it.
She sent me two photographs of her granddaughter. In one, Christina is looking over her shoulder with a playful look in her eye. In the other, she’s a lifeless figure in a coffin, surrounded by teddy bears.
Carolyn McIntyre wants the people responsible for that brought to justice. She is waiting.
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This is another side of the problem: a slow, overburdened judicial system that can’t keep up with the crimes being committed. New cases pop up faster than the courts process them.
On this subject, we’ve heard from county commissioners, the sheriff, the district attorney and inmates.
What about the victims ó or in this case, the victim’s survivors? They may be hurt most by the court backlog. They are waiting for justice and becoming more doubtful by the minute.
In McIntyre’s case, she’s wondering if anything could make her feel justice has really been done.
“I sat up many nights and wondered what their proper punishment should be,” she says of the men charged in Christina’s death. “I don’t know. I know that God has a plan for all involved. They can’t escape judgment.
“So please think of our family and hear our cries. When you feel sorry for such people, think of this Bible passage, Matthew 5 verse 21. ‘Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill: and whosever shall kill: shall be in danger of the judgment.’
“I raised Christina. She called me momma.”
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All five defendants in the Affolter murder are still in jail, according to District Attorney Bill Kenerly. He hopes to bring them to trial next January.
When I went to the jail to see how crowded it was, I talked to the inmates. Some griped about crowding, food and the like, but most of all they wanted to talk about how long they’d been waiting to enter their guilty pleas or have their jury trials.
Too long, many said.
I can understand why some people don’t care about what inmates have to say. More than 20 of the men in the Detention Center that day were awaiting trial for murder. The victims of those crimes were left in far worse condition. Carolyn McIntyre and others would want to remind the inmates of one simple fact ó at least they’re alive.
Another of Christina’s relatives, aunt Melissa Connell, wants everyone to remember that about the men in jail facing charges in Christina’s murder.
“They are lucky to have a bed to sleep in, people to talk to, books and newspapers to read, games to play, food, TV to watch, friends ó just having the privilege to live every day after taking another life,” Melissa writes. “I hope that no one will ever feel sorry for people that would be involved with doing such horrible things.”
Think of the families of the victims, she says, not the inmates.
Speed up the courts. Victims and their families want justice.
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Elizabeth Cook is editor of the Salisbury Post.