Something vile and horrific happened in a courtroom in Ohio last week, and as I’ve reflected upon the event, I’ve been disturbed by the thought that we have become a nation of compliant sheep that no longer produces citizens capable of standing up to injustice.
At a sentencing hearing for school shooter T.J. Lane, who gunned down six high school students, killing three and paralyzing one from the chest down, Judge David Fuhry gave Lane three life sentences in prison, to be served consecutively.
In what should have been a day of closure and justice for the families of the victims and the community of Chardon that suffered so much in the wake of the school shooting last year, a courtroom full of people stood by and allowed T.J. Lane to victimize the families in a base, contemptible way that likely added exponentially to the heavy burden the families already bear.
The courtroom for Lane’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday was packed with families of the victims, students, teachers, and members of the media. As the hearing began, Lane slipped off the button-down shirt he was wearing, revealing a t-shirt onto which he had written “KILLER” with a marker. A collective gasp filled the courtroom. As the families of the victims gave their statements, Lane smiled and leered at the families, almost seeming to enjoy the moment.
After the sentence was read, Lane had the opportunity to make a statement. At that point, he said something so horrific that I’m not even going to write it here, simply to spare you if you haven’t already heard it. (You can read it and watch the video here.) Trust me, you will have to bleach your soul once you hear it. It should be added to The Book of Things That Shall Never Be Repeated. Then Lane flipped the families the middle finger as a parting shot and said, “F*** all of you!” As a mother, I had a visceral — almost physical — reaction. I almost vomited, thinking about the pain his contemptible words caused the families and how they’ll never be able to scrub them from their minds.
People called talk-radio programs that day to vent their anger. Along with vicious prison-retribution wishes, caller after caller said they would have been arrested had they been in the courtroom. They wouldn’t have stood by while Lane visually and verbally tortured the parents.
WTAM host Bob Frantz said: “I would have been shot dead today. I would have leapt tables to get to that kid.”
Everyone stood by and let it happen.