Thursday, December 29, 2016
The rape and murder of Tricia McCauley didn’t make the front page of the paper today, though a large article about the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency appeared on A-1.
Tricia McCauley was killed over the holidays. She was abducted as she made her way to a party, bearing a plate of Brussel sprouts. She was young, white, and well-known throughout the District of Columbia theater scene. I suspect there may have been only two degrees of separation between her and me because I know people in community theater, and they’re a tight-knit bunch. But that’s not the point.
Her death was one of many in the Washington area. Most murders and rapes did not get the amount of attention that Tricia’s did because the victims were unknown and deemed unimportant. It appears she was killed by a repeated-offender, a man arrested again and again for lesser but sometimes violent crimes such as theft, assault, and shoplifting. The man was charged, found guilty and released a bunch of times. He habitually violated his probation, and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the DC Government entity charged with keeping tabs on him, did not report the probation violation to the enforcing authorities because they feared it would violate his rights.
I’m a liberal and I am beginning to understand fully and painfully Winston Churchill’s reputed quote that, “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35, you have no brain.”
I have a pretty good brain, and what I am, is tired of the level of violence that now seems not only acceptable but somehow forgivable. We shrug our shoulders too often; we forget too quickly, we’re too eager to move on.
Tricia’s accused assailant, according to his own family, was in drastic need of help. He had mental issues, a well-known criminal background, and a total disregard and disrespect for the bureaucrats assigned to help him. He was sentenced by the courts to wear a radio anklet but never bothered to show up and have one fitted. In other words, the authorities released him, trusting a man whom they knew to be a recidivist of the worst order to appear as commanded and meekly accept a device to monitor his whereabouts. What could go wrong?
I don’t know if in this particular case the accused is guilty of the crimes. The fact is that a huge number of violent people who have been arrested, charged tried and found guilty of blood-curling wrongdoings are released on their own cognizance. The overwhelming majority of them return to being what they are, habitual criminals who prey on the innocent without fear of reprisal. We, as a society, apparently deem this to be acceptable. It is not.
I’m not a lawmaker. I don’t have solutions, but, like most of us, I can spot failure when I see it. The system has failed to protect its most vulnerable—in this case, a young woman of talent—as well as countless members of the elderly, the homeless and dispossessed, the LGBT community, the physically and mentally challenged, and all those without the resources to fight back.
Here’s the deal. A government that cannot protect its citizens is not a government worth having. It can’t be stated more simply than that.