Tuesday, April 24, 2012

V is for Vegas, but not the one you think...

Those of you who have known me for a while may remember that, during the A to Z Challenge last year, I was an alternate juror on a very emotional trial here in Santa Fe. It was a vehicular homicide case, in which a white Jeep Cherokee, driven by a very drunk man, slammed into a red Subaru driven by a sober teenage girl on the Old Las Vegas Highway in Santa Fe, New Mexico at 12:10 a.m. on June 29, 2009.

Four teenage passengers in the Subaru were killed instantly. Their names were: Rose, Julian, Alyssa and Kate. The driver of the Subaru, Avree, was badly hurt. The driver of the Jeep Cherokee, Scott Owens, was not injured. Three hours after the crash, his blood alcohol level was .16. Avree's blood alcohol was zero.

As an alternate juror, I sat through the entire trial thinking I would be on the jury and would be part of deliberations. But after 10 days, the attorneys rested their cases, and the judge called out my name along with three others and dismissed us. I felt both deflated and relieved. The jury deliberated for two and a half days before finding Scott Owens Not Guilty. I was stunned.

The trial, the verdict, the deaths of those four young people, have haunted me for the past year. During the five years I lived in Santa Fe, I had never had occasion to drive on the Old Las Vegas Highway. It's one of those two-lane roads that used to be the main road, but which now runs alongside Interstate 25 like a ghost highway.

This week, we are staying at the Santa Fe KOA. It's on the Old Las Vegas Highway. Today,I glimpsed one of those roadside memorials of flowers and crosses, and it took me a minute to realize what it was. It was for the kids, the ones who died. My kids, as I think of them.

I have been amazed at how everything about my time in Santa Fe seems to have come full circle. I had always meant to find the spot of the accident, to see it for myself. But I never did. And then, by chance, I find that I am spending my last days in Santa Fe here on the Old Las Vegas Highway, driving over the accident scene and past its marker every time we come and go from town.

My last bit of unfinished business, falling into place all on its own.

Kate,  Julian, Alyssa, Rose

19 comments:

  1. A beautiful tribute to lives stolen.

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    1. Stolen, yes. They have made a lifelong impact on me.

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  2. What a horrific tale, and how bizarre that he was found not guilty.
    And your seeing the marker is strange indeed...

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    1. Jenny, yes, I could not believe the verdict. Worse yet, this past month, he was arrested yet again for DUI. Seeing the marker ... very strange and impactful.

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  3. Glad you could finally come to terms with it. I would have been shocked too, even though like you I didn't know them. The poor parents. . .

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    1. Many parents were in court every single day. One man, whom you might otherwise have thought homeless by his appearance, was there every day. Every day. For his daughter.

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  4. Almost like they are calling out to you and thanking you for caring and trying.

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    1. My friend, this brought tears to my eyes - I think it's what I felt and you said the actual words. Thanks for understanding.

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  5. That's such a sad story, but kind of nice to have the closure of seeing that tribute. Not guilty seems so wrong.

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    1. In my opinion, it was very, very wrong. Especially since he was just arrested again, for DUI.

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  6. I can't imagine the emotional impact of that trial and verdict. Justice....where is it? Four markers, four lives forever gone. Glad you found them before you leave.

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    1. I'm so glad I found them - or as Delores above suggests - they found me??? I never fail to be moved by this experience, the thought of them, the injustice. I suspect there is something I must write about it someday, when I'm better able.

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  7. Not guilty?! I think it is because so many jurors drink themselves and think--that could be me or my kid--they protect the drunken drivers. See it all too often. Like getting drunk gives you a pass because you aren't in your right mind and have suddenly gone insane or something. Not held responsible? Tragic! In more ways than one. He might do this again. The guilt they carry when they get off probably just gives them more reason to drink. *shudders* Thanks for sharing this with us.

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    1. Rita - I know. I think there is a lot of "gee, that could have happened to ME" thinking. And you are right about that last part too -he was just arrested for DUI again.

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  8. I can't think why that guy would be found guilty. Amazing.

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    1. Lynn, I know. It was the strangest case - the defense stipulated to the DUI, and it became a case of proving if he CAUSED the accident. I think that there was some assumption that the teens somehow caused the accident, though there was NO evidence to show that this was the case.

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  9. Melissa - Today's post sent shivers through my body. First because he was found not guilty. Second because you chanced upon the crash site of these poor teenage girls. Sad synchronicity but an opportunity for some sort of closure for you. :(

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