When I was sixteen I was sentenced to twenty years in prison for first degree attempted-intentional homicide. Though I did commit the crime, several mitigating circumstances existed that should have dropped the charges to a lesser included offense. They were dismissed as an undefined “gray area” in the law, which all prosecutors and most judges refuse to consider. Even though they were viable mitigating circumstances that the laws provided provisions for, I was erroneously given the maximum possible sentence.
In December of 1991, four friends and I ran away from our abusive homes with an eighteen-year-old. We went to one of the friend’s’ parent’s cabin in Marinette, WI. After three and a half days of drinking and fighting with each other, the adult put a gun to my head and a knife to my throat, and told me to shoot the person who drove us to the cabin or he would kill me. With the knife pressed hard enough against my skin that I began to bleed, I took the gun, and pointed blindly in the direction of the driver. I shot six times, hitting him twice. We fled the cabin, leaving the boy I shot behind. When we were caught in Michigan, I told the police that I had done the shooting.
As a child I was severely physically and emotionally abused by my parents, and from the ages of four through seven I was abused at the hands of foster parents. While in the foster home, I was sexually molested, at gun point, by an older foster child. The molester told me that if I told anyone what he was doing, he would shoot me. Not until I was fourteen did I speak of it with the psychiatrist I had been seeing for obsessive compulsive control disorder and extreme hyper activity.
For whatever reason, I was given a second chance to experience life in this freedom most of us take for granted. Though the journey has been turbulent, I have gained an understanding of how the abuse has affected my actions and decision making throughout my life. It is with this insight that I have been able to excel in my life since committing my crime.
The previously undefined “gray area” does have definitive substance and meaning in relation to the mitigating circumstances and validated diseases seemingly given no consideration by prosecutors and judges. There are determining factors that need to be given more consideration in sentencing anyone to any term of incarceration. Is it not about time we begin to truly see the vivid colors that surround us, to embrace them as more than mere flashes dictating only guilt and innocence? Like life, the law is a vibrant living entity, crimes and why they are committed are not merely black and white, and neither are the alleged criminals and the sentences they receive.