For Jori, there was no happy ending

That a man can confess to killing his son and not be punished is a fact that troubled many observers of the Jeremiah Wright case.

Wright, 32, decapitated and dismembered his 7-year-old special-needs son Jori Lirette in August 2011 at their Thibodaux home. He admitted as much to police upon questioning, describing the crime in graphic, harrowing detail.

But Wright’s forthrightness contained elements of what medical experts came to agree is psychosis.

In the 30 months leading up to his not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity acquittal last week, Wright spoke of auditory hallucinations and consistently conveyed a delusion that Jori was not a real human being, but a “prop” in a large-scale conspiratorial experiment the world was conducting on Wright.

State and federal protections are in place to prevent someone who was mentally unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time a crime is commissioned from being prosecuted. If Wright truly held the worldview he related to psychologists and psychiatrists – whom testified his beliefs and thought patterns were, in essence, too complex to be fake – then he certainly qualifies as insane.

Jori was a real boy. He attended South Thibodaux Elementary School. He liked to watch cartoons and listen to Linkin Park songs. He banged on cabinets and playfully slapped passersby who didn’t acknowledge him, family members said.

Jori, who had cerebral palsy, couldn’t speak other than to say the word, “Hey,” and used a wheelchair for mobility and required care at all hours of the day and he had to eat via a feeding tube, but he was a real boy, with thoughts and feelings.

Jori was not an inanimate object, a CPR dummy, a robot. Yet, the man who conceived him believed him to be inhuman, so the final moments of Jori’s helpless life were beyond the most grotesque punishment imaginable. 

Justice and closure are abstract concepts, and they are particularly foreign to Jori’s family in the wake of Wright’s adjudication, Jori’s grandfather said.

What would bring justice? A lethal injection? A lifetime of imprisonment? Nobody can really say. No matter the fate of Jeremiah Wright, the brutal slaying of Jori Lirette cannot be undone.

For killing the weakest among us in a horrific fashion, Wright will be confined indefinitely at a state-run mental hospital. He will be treated for his illness, not punished for his crime. To many, that is unfair and unjust. But it was the law, and based upon evidence and testimony supplied to the court, the only realistic outcome.

Ultimately, Wright’s punishment, or lack thereof, matters little. A story that has already concluded cannot have a happy ending.