It was around 10am when I arrived at the Fort Bend County Courthouse. I was late because my hot coffee spilled on my new white blouse. I tried to continue my morning routine of grabbing the mail, saying hello to my co-workers, and checking my emails.
As I approached Danny, a highly intelligent defense attorney, he smiled and said his usual, “How’s it going, beautiful?”
I replied with the usual, “Same old, same old, Danny.” He was always hinting that he wanted to date me, but we both knew it would never happen.
I continued to walk to my desk when I overheard two other co-workers arguing about some intense case. “You know he won’t be charged with the death penalty, John,” I heard Adam say.
“Probably not, but at least he’ll be locked up,” John replied.
I knew the exact case they were talking about. It was the case that everyone was talking about.
On May 12, 2008, Jose Gutierrez, age 29, was arrested for the murder of his wife Claire, 23, and their son Michael, 11 months old. Jose allegedly killed both his wife and son, and then stuffed them inside plastic containers in their home. After being advised of his constitutional rights, Jose admitted that he had murdered his wife and child and then stuffed them into a plastic storage container seven days earlier. The court case has just come up, and has brought controversy to the law office.
I myself, being a strong supporter of the death penalty, find it frustrating when murderers are stuck in jail for the rest of their life. Lethal injection is complex and expensive and I catch myself reminiscing about the old days where criminals were hung within days of their trial.
“Why should a murderer have a better life in jail than some innocent family struggling to make ends meet out in the real world?” I overheard Danny argue. “Sometimes I’m amazed why the country is the way it is.”
By this time, there were three prosecuting attorneys against five defense attorneys, and I knew it was not going to end in Danny’s favor.
“Chill out, Danny,” John replied, “You can’t win them all. And besides, Jose will be locked up forever.”
Amazed, the majority of my office smiled and agreed with him. As the dispute came to an end, and all of the lawyers got back to work, I noticed how upset Danny still was.
“How’s it going, Danny?” I asked, trying to get him to think about something different.
“Terrible,” Danny replied. “How can this country be okay with murderers and rapists sitting in jail continuing to live their life when they’ve harmed so many other lives?”
I thought to myself that it’s not fair, and Danny’s right, but that wouldn’t solve anything. So I told him, “All you can do is try your best, Danny. You send some to lethal injection, and get the rest off the streets so they can’t harm anymore people.” I was hoping it would help, but all I could see was Danny cramming his pencil even deeper into his stack of case papers.
“How is a murderer getting to choose his last meal fair?” Danny asked. “The people he murdered didn’t get to choose their last meal. They didn’t even get to choose how they died!” Anger filled his face.
There wasn’t much I could say; I agreed 100% with him.
“Danny, life isn’t fair, you should know that by now,” John whispered as we walked by.
“Life isn’t fair, and since we’re lawyers, we should know that by now,” I muttered.
Danny’s hand released the beat up pencil and he put both hands to his head. “It’s just so frustrating to know that this man will be alive until his body gives out,” he muttered.
“I know, Danny,” I told him, “but that’s just how life goes, all we can do is look forward to the next day and the next criminal to put behind bars.”