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Justice system works to alleviate misery when unthinkable::1

It’s difficult to find solace in the wake of a tragedy as stomach-churning as one occurring last week in Northeast McMinnville.

For those related to the victims or perpetrator of a bloody local murder and assault, it will take friends, family, hopes, prayers and, most importantly, time. For the community as a whole, the healing process is likely to follow a similar path.

First, we have to let the shock wear off. If the suspect were a drug-addicted adult thief, we’d simply be angry. But he’s a 15-year-old boy who lived with the victims, so we have disbelief to overcome.

Next, we have to muster compassion. Fortunately, the local toy shop where the slain woman worked, itself a beacon of community spirit, has been witnessing plenty of that compassion. Flowers, hugs and good wishes started streaming in the following day.

Finally comes the coping. For that, we rely on the justice system.

It can be easy to let anger drive our opinion toward the suspect, especially when he apparently admitted his guilt. Hence the cries, “Lock him up,” “Send him to the yard for life. There’s no explanation good enough for such a heinous act, so we don’t want to even consider anything short of outright vengeance.

But that’s not what our society values. Even in the most heinous of events, we believe in reason and due process.

Locally, we’re lucky to have a justice system that is thoughtful and fair.

Not every decision from District Attorney Brad Berry’s office has been met with universal approval. Going down particularly hard was his decision not to prosecute a man for his role in a downtown brawl that turned fatal.

But under the scrutiny of high-profile cases over the years, our DA’s office has held up very well. And that’s not the case in many parts of the nation. 

“Just Mercy,” a New York Times bestseller by crusading attorney Bryan Stevenson, shows how mercy and justice can play second fiddle to politics, public shaming and outright prejudice. He urges us to remember that everyone is “more than the worst thing they have ever done,” as he said in a recent speech.

All people are flawed, some much more than others. If the public can show mercy to perpetrators of even the most reprehensible acts, then some good may still result. 

We have confidence the suspect will be treated fairly, and justice will still be served, lending a glimmer of hope to a bleak scenario. 

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