It’s been 17 months since Rocio’s death, and the time since then has basically been a rollercoaster for my family and myself. Finally, on April, 22nd we got a call from the D.A. informing us that the person held responsible for the car accident was about to accept the plea bargain. I will refer to this person by “him” (or “his” when denoting his possessive) since posting his real name would serve no purpose.
For all this time we wanted him to take the plea. Him refusing so would cause us to go to trial, and most unsavory of all, to have my mother testify and recount the events. Her being a survivor from the accident and having witnessed Rocio’s death was more than enough for us and the D.A. to avoid it if possible.
In essense the plea bargain involved “him” pleading guilty from leaving the scene of an accident that caused a fatality and driving with a suspended license. He would complete a few more months in jail (given that he’s been behind bars during all this time), 2 years house incarceration (he has to wear a bracelet), 10 years probation and him being registered as a convict.
Up to the time for us to go court, April, 23rd, there was always the though in our minds: are we doing the right thing? Are we actually seeking justice? After all, accidents do happen.
Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you see it) we ended up overhearing “his” family and his lawyer debating on this. Up to the very last moment, it seemed they were still squabbling on not pleading guilty, and alas, to contemplate running away from the US and back to their home country to escape punishment.
Keep in mind I’m quoting verbatin what they were saying, unaware they were being heard.
As we took the stand to give our testimony on the lost we suffered, it was for the very first time that we could let it all out and explain to the world the magnitude of our loss. How much suffering and deprivations we had to endure in Nicaragua and Honduras, how much work we had to do to finally have a decent life in the US. After many years of hard work and school we finally had a moment of peace, of finally settling down. And on the eve of Rocio’s weeding, she dies and the culprit of this tragedy runs away, leaving her without an afterthought, without lending a helping hand to the rest of my mother and sister as they scrambled out of the car, trying in vain to lift it and rescue Rocio who died on impact.
She was left by the culprit, abandoned like roadkill. That was the greatest injustice of all.
And as him took the stand to, supposedly, apologize, he still didn’t. In vain he tried to say that accidents happened. Yes, sometimes they happen by mere misfortune. Sometimes, however, they happen when we drive carelessly without regards of those passing next to us. Moreover, it was not the accident per say, but the evasive demeanor thereafter that added to the injustice of it.
It took the judge to cut him coldly, telling him that his wasn’t an apology. At that point, he said “I’m sorry.” Apologies like that do not count.
After hearing his family’s suggestions to escape abroad rather than accepting the plea like a man would, and after hearing his supposed apology, it became clear that, indeed, we were doing the right thing in pursuing this.
This was a guilty man, a man that to the very end refused to accept his culpability.
There is no satisfaction in the verdict. After all, the punishment is just a fraction of what should have been. But in a court of law, we have to settle with what we can prove beyond reasonable doubt. These aren’t medieval times, and my family believes in our justice system. Thus, this is the best we can get and so be it. God is the Ultimate Judge and only He knows what is right or wrong.
There is no anger, or hate. Just apathy towards this person and a sense of emptiness that will never go away.
There is no contentment in this. It will never bring Rocio back to life. So, it is not a victory either. It was simply a thing that needed to be done, to give Rocio a modicum of justice, and to close this one chapter.
All that is left now is just to move forward in the most positive and just way possible.