Helena Gudell’s Wonderland: Judicial Failure

Every day the people who work in our judicial system have to make decisions that we sit back and judge. Sometimes they downgrade charges for certain people in order to garner their trust and testimony for others but when does the justice system fail those they are in charge of protecting? 

As a mother we are the first line of defense for our children. And there are a couple cases in which that line of defense has failed and it is left to the justice system to make sure that those who harm our children are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There are often times tho that these young children are left without a voice. Sometimes the state doesn’t have enough evidence to get the charges they want, they need the offender to cooperate to go after someone else for something more, or sometimes regardless of the events that took place they just don’t have the ability to prove it in the court of law so they take what they can get. Is this a flaw in our judicial system? I think so. Someone asked in a FB group I am in “when will this end” my reply was quite simple “when we start holding these people responsible for their actions”. When we stop cutting deals and start holding people accountable for their actions and they see that there are actually serious consequences then maybe people will think twice.Chance

Not too long ago I wrote about a case here local to me about a mother and father who killed their infant son who was only a couple months old at the time of his death. The death of Chance was described as a brutal one. He was beaten and then had a baby wipe shoved down his throat (later supposedly removed by his mother) and ended up suffocating in his bed. Chance lived from July to September. His body was discovered by police after his mother gave them the location of the burial site. She was charged initially with first degree murder in the death of her son. Later the charges were reduced to aggravated manslaughter. This is the charge she eventually plead guilty to. She ended up getting a 25yr sentence in exchange for her testimony against her husband at his upcoming trial for 2nd Degree Murder. Under Florida Sentencing Guidelines Kristen could have faced anywhere from 30 years to life in prison but with this deal she gets out in 25. Florida does not have a traditional parole system. Basically she will have to serve out at least 80% of her sentence before she will be allowed to be considered for release. The terms of her plea are simple… she has to testify truthfully against her husband at his trial where he is facing a possible life sentence. That’s it. She gets spared time for what she did and all she has to do is appear in court and give HER side of the story. We don’t know what the truth is the day her son lost his life. There were only 3 people around. One who passed away from his injuries, one who cut a deal to save her life, and one who hasn’t said a word. The only thing I know is there isn’t enough time in a jail cell for a person who kills their child or stands by and watches it happen.

Another major case that has captured the attention of Florida residents and those across the country is that of Lonzie Barton who went missing from Jacksonville in July. His body was just recently located on Jan 11 after a tip from Ruben Ebron who is currently being held on child neglect and lying to police as well as some drug charges. His girlfriend, Lonna Barton took a plea deal to save herself. She was also facing child neglect charges as well as lying to police. Before Lonzie went missing, Lonna said she noticed that he had fluid leaking from his ear and he seemed lethargic. She never sought treatment for him or reported any potential abuse. The next day Lonzie was reported missing by Ruben Ebron in the middle of the night saying that his car was taken from the front of the apartment building with Lonzie inside. As the investigation went on the police realized that was not the truth and they started looking closer at Ruben and Lonna for the reason Lonzie was no longer around. As the trial for their neglect and lying to police charges came about, Lonna took a plea deal to the 2 charges and agreed to testify against her former boyfriend/drug dealer. She will be sentenced formally as this article is published (sentencing is scheduled for 2/1) At this point of time she faces a sentence of up to 5 years for the neglect charges and 1 year for the charge of lying to police. Those sentences will be served concurrently which means she will serve the time together. If she is sentenced to 5 years for one and 1 year for the other than she will only actually do 5 years of time and they will include the time she has already been in jail waiting for her trial. And again she will only have to serve 80% of her time before she can be released. When she took the plea deal, her former boyfriend then told police where they could find the body of little Lonzie.

Now both of these mothers will be sitting in jail. But at what cost? We don’t know their true roll in the deaths of their sons. Did the justice system do what was right in giving them a deal so they can convict the men in these cases? Or did these women basically get away with murdering their children? Yes Kristen will be sitting in jail til she’s almost 50 but is that really enough time? Its easy to say that she is getting her life taken away from her but in reality, she will still be out in enough time to enjoy time outside of the prison bars. I understand that there are a lot of conversations that go on behind the scenes that we’re not privy to between the defendants and the Prosecution, but from the time she was arrested in South Carolina and was being sent back to Florida, Kristen was pointing the fingers at her husband as being the one who murdered their child. And Lonna has kept her mouth shut this whole time saying that she was at work when her son “disappeared” and she didn’t know what happened. So what can these two women really offer the state in the quest for justice? Now I do understand in the case of Chance, that there is evidence that could back up her story. We know that part of a blue surgical glove was found with the body of Chance in his shallow grave. There could be DNA evidence that ties that glove to Joe Walsh. There could also be other forensic evidence that was found in the search of the house that could substantiate her story. Only the trial will tell. In the case of Lonzie Barton, the state has already claimed that the poor body of the young toddler is currently evidence and they’re trying to do an autopsy to find cause of death and see if they can tie either Ruben or Lonna to his death.lonzie barton

When I went thru my own case with the judicial system I found myself feeling very frustrated and felt that justice wasn’t done for my son. When his biological broke both my son’s legs in a fit of anger one day while I was at work, I didn’t stand by and let him get away with it. I made sure my son was taken care of and went thru the circus of a child protective services investigation. And when the day finally came that he went to court he took a plea. He plead guilty to aggravated child abuse and was sentenced to 10yrs. The judge suspended all but 18 months of his sentence and he actually served only 11 total months in county jail. I lost my career in the Navy, my son lost his innocence, and the abuser only lost 11 months out of his life. I will never see myself believing that plea deals are ok. I will always understand the victims families when a child is abused. What I will never understand is how a mother could stand by and allow her man or anyone hurt her children. And for that reason I believe that they should be punished just as harshly or even more so than the one who abused or killed their child. As I said we are our children’s first line of defense. We are their protector.

 

What are your thoughts? Do you think plea deals are a good idea? Or should it be in extreme need situations? Do you think if there were harsher penalties for abusers and murderers of children that there would be less instances? Share your thoughts either in comment or shoot an email to WonderlandBCE@gmail.com 

You can also tweet me and discuss this further @wonderlandbce 

 

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