Tuesday, September 1, 2009

In today's Englewood Sun Editorial Page


Denise Lee's heroic efforts remain with us

OUR POSITION: There is no doubt the verdict in the Michael King case was just, or that Denise Amber Lee will be remembered by her family and community for her heroic struggle for life.

Above all reactions to the Michael King trial in recent weeks, none is so universal and powerful as the personal.

Our hearts and our prayers go to the family of Denise Amber Lee, to her children, her husband, her parents and all the relatives who loved this beautiful, heroic young woman and love her still.

Justice has been served. King was found guilty by a jury of murder, kidnapping and sexual battery. This was correct.

As the penalty phase of the trial begins this morning, we will defer comment on the question of whether King deserves to be executed for his grotesque crime.

We respect the arguments of those who oppose the death penalty and those who believe it is wrong for society to willfully take a life, no matter the circumstances. If there ever were a case that challenges the convictions of ardent death-penalty opponents, this clearly is it. King's crimes against our society are unforgivable; the family's loss is unfathomable.

Justice has been served, although the legal process seemed only to add another cruel layer to the family's pain. From the outset, the evidence against King was overwhelming. The police work was solid. No other scenario for the crime was remotely plausible.

Yet Denise's family and friends spent many excruciating hours plunged back into the nightmare of their loved one's final hours. They listened as Denise's frantic cell phone call to a police dispatcher was played, sat by as jurors looked at crime scene photos and viewed a bloodstained shirt, and they watched detailed reenactments.

Those who followed the case but didn't know Denise were no doubt revulsed by the words and images. But they, and we, only regard the suffering of others from a distance, no matter how short that distance might be and no matter how empathetic we might feel. The pain of those who loved Denise daily is immeasurable. This was horrifying. We know that much, and our hearts and prayers are with them at this time.

It is a cornerstone of our judicial system that a person accused of a crime must be presumed innocent in court, that he is entitled to the fullest defense possible, that all the evidence against him be aired in public and that he should be judged by a jury of fellow citizens. Our hearts may hate the cruelty this inflicts on a victim's family -- how they are victimized anew by the process -- but our heads understand the necessity of the process. There cannot be reasonable doubt about guilt. There is none in this case. That is how it should be.

Denise's husband and children, her extended family, continue to need our community's support. All gestures of kindness, no matter how small, do help.

The Lee family also deserves support in their effort to see legislation passed nationwide that insists on a higher level of 911 emergency training. The details of case of the botched 911 call is now familiar. But Denise's story should not end with this court case; we owe her the legacy of an improved police system that might prevent such a tragedy in the future.

Ultimately, Denise's legacy will be personal. It will be the heroism of a young woman, greatly loved, who fought as best as she possibly could for more time on this earth with her family, friends and community. No one can possibly forget that.