Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!
His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.
Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.
It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.
For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever;
his horn is exalted in honor.
The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away;
the desire of the wicked will perish!
In juvenile court, the meeting where judgement is passed on a potential crime is not called sentencing, rather they call it a disposition hearing. I asked Asher’s court-appointed defense counsel for the reason, and he explained that the heart of the juvenile justice system is to see rehabilitation. To that end, everything is named and managed with an eye for long-term impact. They want kids seeing themselves as entering a system designed to address and heal the deeper, underlying issues so that they may reenter society as well-adjusted minors who will go on to live successful lives.
Sentencing feels rather final.
We wait with anticipation in the courtroom. 3 months of Asher sitting in a detention cell while psycho-social and psycho-sexual evaluations, polygraph tests, IQ tests were ordered and detained has worn on us all. Plus, the detention center is a privately contracted provider to the state and charges $50 a day for its services. You can do the math.
During our son’s detention, we were never able to have physical contact visits. So, there is a bittersweetness to sitting next to him and being able to touch him. His skin is dry and cracked. He suffers from eczema. They provide lotion, but nothing like what he needs. His arms are riddled with bruises and scars from friction burns he started giving himself a month ago. He is currently on a suicide watch. I don’t actually believe he is suicidal. I believe he is desperately trying to gain attention and doesn’t know how to adjust to living in a world where his tantrums don’t get him the hours of uninterrupted engagement the way they did at home. It is a learning curve for us all.
We were afraid that we would not be able to participate much during the disposition. Because we are the parents of both the victim and perpetrator, we are not allowed to engage in Asher’s defense counsel. The court mandated this separation after too many parents were making unhealthy choices on behalf of one child or the other – usually to the detriment of the perpetrator. Honestly, objectivity is impossible. However, the Holy Spirit continues to pour into us a desire to see Asher meet justice and also be lovingly supported.
Defense counsel spoke with us prior to Asher’s entrance into the courtroom, and it was mutually decided that we would drop one of the charges against him for a remainder of two counts of lewd and lascivious conduct against a minor under the age of 16. This decision allows the court enough material to remand him to custody without beating a dead horse. We also agreed that if he pleads guilty to the two counts, then his juvenile record will be sealed at 21. However, if he does not make use of the rehabilitative program and must be passed over to an adult prison at 21, then the charges become felonies on his permanent record.
Asher is quiet. He sits between me and Joseph at the large defense table. The detective in our case sits behind the prosecutor and can’t seem to take his eyes off us. He makes my blood boil. His decision to divulge aspects of our case to a neighbor now means our entire subdivision knows the horror we are facing. Unfortunately, he isn’t under the same legal bounds of client confidentiality, and while it is assumed he would keep his mouth shut, we have no real legal recourse.
We are now lepers in our small cul-de-sac.
It is all just another of the myriad reasons why I must speak the truth of God’s word aloud to myself. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! I greatly delight in the law of God, and what Asher did was wrong because God calls it so. Therefore, we sit in this courtroom, listening to the counts against our son, feeling the eyes of the detective bore into us, refusing to cry as we steady Asher’s hands in our own, and wait for the judge to issue his final remarks.
“We are faced with a difficult decision. This young man has transgressed the law and hurt others in a most grievous way. But the defendant has acknowledged his part and taken responsibility for it. That is the first step in righting this wrong. However, because the defendant lives in the same house as his victims, this court cannot, in good conscience, allow him to return home for outpatient rehabilitation. This matter is further complicated by the defendant’s own victimization at the hands of a neighborhood boy in the family’s previous state of residence. It is this court’s opinion that we would never be sitting here, facing this decision, were it not for the pain inflicted by that other perpetrator.
Asher, you have a long life in front of you. You have years of potential stretching out before you. I want to know that you are prepared to make the most of your gift of life. I will be receiving reports from time to time from your social worker and probation officer, and I expect to see you working hard to invest yourself in the opportunity placed before you. May I have your word that you will do this?”
“Very well. It is the decision of this court to remand Asher Reynolds to the Juvenile Corrections Facility for a term no less than 12 months or not to exceed his 21 birthday. Upon successful completion of his treatment, this court orders that the defendant’s juvenile record be permanently sealed. Also, upon completion of treatment and successful reintegration to society, to include probation and sex offender specific counseling, this court orders that the defendant not be required to register with any sex-offender specific registries. Because of the defendant’s age and sensitive nature of this case, these proceedings will be sealed from public record.