Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

July 27, 2012

Harter: Present at the sentencing

Nathan Harter
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — After securing the courtroom, law enforcement officers from the Decatur County Sheriff's Department asked people milling about in the hall to file into their seats for one of the most newsworthy hearings of 2012 - namely, the sentencing of Tasha Parsons in Superior Court for the crime of murder.

Unlike at football games or weddings where you declare whose side you are on, at this hearing nobody can tell as an outsider why particular people showed up. While you wait, you can guess who belongs to the defendant's family, who represents the media, and so on.

Given the nature of the crime, I almost expected an outraged mob at the courthouse with torches and pitchforks, like in the movies, converging to see that justice was done. Nothing of the kind took place. The crowd was puny. About 37 people were in the room. Maybe the local citizens trust our judicial system to dispose of the case adroitly.

Looking around, anyone can tell most of the players by what they wore. Safety officers were in uniform. Lawyers came in suits. The defendant herself wore the orange jailhouse jumpsuit and manacles. Finally, making his formal entrance to open the hearing, the judge wore a robe. The room was pregnant with due solemnity.

For the next hour, the players performed their parts in a careful ritual, treating the occasion with respect and making sure it all left a complete record, because they were not performing a show for our benefit, as in a theater. Instead, they were conscious of many who were not present that day: the victim, for example, and the co-defendant against whom Tasha Parsons might testify, as well as the judges who might hear her appeal.

But there is more. Everyone participating plainly had a sense of the vague and brooding presence of the community as a whole Ñ past, present, and future Ñ the continuous and mutually dependent citizens who constitute this city. After such a savage murder, the community must have its closure.

So many things flowed through the minds of each of those 37 people who decided to witness the occasion. So many emotions swept the room. And to be honest, very little was accomplished to prevent such a tragedy next time. That wasn't its purpose. Nevertheless, the social fabric on which we all rely was mended a bit. For this, we should be glad.

The judicial system finished this phase with grim determination. Our community was vindicated. The best in us was brought to bear to suppress the worst in us. Such is the way, my friends, step-by-step, by which we earn our civilization.