OUR VIEW: 2 tragic stories

Today’s issue contains two extremely sad stories. One is the tale of a man authorities say should have been imprisoned long ago, but due to legal technicalities and evidentiary problems was free to walk our streets, drive our highways and take a life with a gun.

Rhubin Scott Jr. will have his day in court, and must be considered innocent of murdering David Trahan Jr. and wounding the boy’s mother and sister, until a jury finds those allegations to be fact.

Nonetheless, the case they present when asked why Scott was not properly prosecuted in the past for crimes alleged against him is compelling.

For many years in our communities there were problems for people – mostly women – who found themselves at the wrong end of abusive relationships. Law enforcement, male dominated and culture-bound, was not always as effective as it should have been at dealing with what happens when a husband beats a wife, or a boyfriend a girlfriend, or the reverse. There was indeed a time when law enforcement officers were reluctant to intervene unless something really, truly bad had happened.

But those times have changed, and the system appears ready to assist. But personal agenda – from fear of retribution to less noble concerns, like a loss of financial support or pressure as to what other people might think, get in the way.

The police are proactive. Laws and procedures mandate arrests in certain cases, and one might think that the problem might be solved. Prosecutors take seriously their responsibilities. Organizations like The Haven provide succor and support.

But still, there are problems.

The Bayou Blue case is, apparently, proof of this.

This time, however, it is victims who are being called out as being responsible for the continuing cycle. Women who are hit or shot at and don’t cooperate with authorities are allowing some real monsters to walk around out there.

People must realize that when they allow an abuser to walk, they are courting disaster not just for themselves but their children, and other peoples’ children.

It takes a village not just to raise a child but to ensure that child’s safety.

In the case of David Trahan Jr. our village failed, despite the best efforts of some.

It is no longer accurate to say that the authorities are doing nothing to help where matters of domestic violence are concerned. But they need help from victims and from witnesses, to make sure that people who have crossed the line by violating sacred – and not-so-sacred – relationships are held accountable.

An overcrowded criminal justice system means there is a trend toward jail and prison alternatives for some, who haven’t crossed the line too far yet. But even those programs cannot work to full advantage if offenders don’t realize that the full weight of the law is ready to fall on them if they do not comply.

We realize that there is a fine line between a plea for help from those whose job is to keep all of us safe and victim-blaming. But we don’t see the words of Sheriff Jerry Larpenter or District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr. as being exercises of that. Rather, they are frustrated enough with these cases to speak out at the risk of being criticized for their honesty.

But we offer a challenge to the District Attorney and or judges as well. Dockets in our courts are full to overflowing. It is tempting for overworked assistants to go through these cases like so many numbers on a list, and not take the extra time to determine how true justice can best be achieved. A review of how our court calendars operate is long overdue. Perhaps the great minds that we know are part of our justice system locally can get together and re-assess how criminal matters are handled. Truly non-violent offenders should be more easily bonded to make room for the truly violent. But that brings us back to the responsibility of victims. We agree that they must follow through, they must assist. They must realize the consequences of not cooperating with a case against a significant other.

Help is available. The District Attorney offices in Terrebonne and Lafourche want to aid cooperative victims. It is no longer acceptable for calling the police due to a domestic situation to serve as a means of control. Police should be called when violence occurs, however, and everyone needs to be willing to follow cases through if the justice system is to be truly just.