Monday, August 27, 2012

The Crime Victim's Face

Aurora, Colorado . . . Oak Creek, Wisconsin . . . Tucson, Arizona. Blood and dead bodies everywhere. Everyone wants to see what the criminal-of-the-day looks like and to a lesser extent, know why he did it. Eventually the killer's photo is posted everywhere and citizens intently study the image for signs of obvious evil. People like to think that, if the situation were to happen to them, they would immediately recognize the insane grin or the racist glower or the orange hair and then be smart enough get the hell out of out of Dodge . . . or something. Lamentably, criminals of the future refuse to be defined.

The very saddest part is that the criminal's picture is the one we remember. Why? Because after the initial broadcast, it is then broadcast again. And again and again. And again and again. The deceased victims? The surviving victims? The heroes? The victims families? Not so much. Not at all really, after the first week or two.

And that is in the high profile crimes. When someone's child is murdered in a robbery or a drug deal gone bad or for no apparent reason at all, the public will most likely see a photo or two of the killer, if he's known, but no images whatsoever of the victim. That is wrong.

Why do these murderers' faces need to be shown over and over again? I understand once or twice but to the point of a previously unknown felon's face being burned into our brains? Created by that ubiquitous reality show - “the news”, which routinely turns criminals into celebrities.

If the victim happens to be famous already, like Gabrielle Giffords, that is another matter. Every moment of Ms. Giffords recovery was documented, which is fine. But when she was shot, there were other victims too. Some survived and some did not. If you are an everyday Joe, then it's as if you were killed in a car crash . . . sad, but not so memorable.

My book, “Escaping the Arroyo” is about a crime not as renown as the ones above, but notorious just the same - in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The mugshot of convicted kidnapper/rapist/killer, Michael Guzman, landed on the front page many times. There would have been even more pictures but his attorney informed the court that cameras made him nervous. Contrast that with murder victim Julie Jackson, who's beautiful face never made the front page at all. Recently, also in Albuquerque, another convicted murderer's image, Michael Astorga, who always seemed to be smirking at the camera, dominated the media. Victim Jim McGrane's photo was also shown, but again and even though he was a Bernalillo County Sheriff shot in the line of duty, not as often. As for pictures of Astorga's second murder victim, Candido Martinez, they were few and far between.

My point is, yes, these horrible crimes are going to be discussed ad nauseum, but why is it the criminal's face we remember? Reporting the evildoing is necessary but instead of repeatedly showing the murderer, how about showing the victims - not also, but instead . . . every time. In the case of the deceased victims, all they have left are their pictures and the memories they represent.

                                            Buy "Escaping the Arroyo" at

                                              Aurora Colorado Shooting Victims

1 comment:

  1. Hello. I'm using a pen name, so anyone reading this won't know who I am. I've just discovered this page.

    I was Julie's friend since 5th grade at Swinburne (teacher was Mrs. Lally) and all through Tibbetts middle school until we moved to another state in the middle of 9th grade. Julie and I wrote letters to each other every week without fail since I moved away up until the week of her murder. I got a phone call about it in the middle of the night from my sister's friend, and pretty much shut down on the spot.

    I have Aspergers and don't do emotions well. I have only one friend at a time. Julie was an exceptionally gifted person who loved being intellectually challenged, and I guess I fit that niche for her. She had lots of friends, but always made room for me at her side any time I was around. She and her friends gave me a kidnap breakfast for my last birthday in NM, and a sleepover going away party before I moved. When I went back to visit the summer after high school, she ushered me around town like a special guest, which made me feel really good. No one else ever knew how to handle me, but she always pulled my best out, especially intellectually.

    It's taken me this long to be able to handle reading the news articles. My family protected me and didn't share what they learned since I got that phone call. I'm so very glad Colene survived and has been telling the story. I'm so very grateful she's committed her life to sharing such hard stuff.

    I remember Julie's dad's name was George and he had a bakery. I never contacted him, and I always wished I had. By the time I finally came around to being able to handle facing it enough to speak out loud, he had moved away and the bakery was gone, at least not that I could trace down from another state.

    I still have Julie's school pictures from every year since the 5th grade. I still miss her terribly. I've met only one other person who was ever able to handle me like she could and bring out my best.

    I'm sorry it took me so long to find this. I just want to say again how very glad I am that you and Colene have made this story such a big thing. Thank you.