One of the more eye-opening parts of my job is its requirement that I be a witness to a whole host of human dramas. This was reinforced with the opportunity to cover the recently competed manslaughter trial of Lejuan Wainwright, a Walton man who was convicted Thursday of stabbing Tyler Warner, also of Walton.
Warner's family and friends were in attendance at every day of the trial that I was there, and I'm sure that was true on the days that I couldn't make it. In the interest of reporting their side of the story, I made two efforts to give them an opportunity to comment, and when they turned that down, I respected that.
Their composure through some difficult testimony, including portrayals of their loved one, was impressive.
I never had a chance to express my sympathies for their loss in this case. Nobody should have to endure what they have gone through, and they did it in the courtroom with a strong display of character.
The picture that came out of Wainwright was a sad one. The 20-year-old had recently come from Florida to be with a girl he had met on the Internet. When that didn't work out, he asked his grandmother for money to return home, but she didn't have it. He literally had only a few dollars when he met a Walton resident who offered him a place to stay and a job. It is heartbreaking to think about how things would have turned out if Wainwright's family would have had the money to help with the return, or if he wouldn't have met the Walton man before he had to decide his future. Or, for that matter, if Warner hadn't been drinking that night.
Looking at Warner's friends in the courtroom, I was reminded about the youth of those involved. Both the victim and his assailant were 20. Anybody who has raised children knows that despite your best intentions they are going to make mistakes. But for the young man who is dead, his family and friends and the other young man who is in jail, decisions made that August night altered everything.
Witnessing this unfolding of human drama inevitably changes the way one sees life.
It also made me once again admire the legal system. This includes the jury, which did its job very professionally.
I don't know what happened in the jury room, and Judge Carl Becker, who presided over the more than week-long event with the same patient and professional manner throughout, made it clear that no effort will be made to ever find out what happened during the deliberations.
But they clearly took the time to review the evidence and rose to the necessary challenge that comes with being a citizen in this country. Coming from all walks of life, they worked together to sort through the evidence and come up with a verdict.
To be complete, I should also note the various court clerks, guards and even the Walton police officer, who let me know the jury was having lunch so I could grab a bite while waiting for the verdict. They all made me stop and appreciate the mechanics of justice.
Mark Boshnack can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 218, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.