On Monday my mom sent me a text.
The grand jury handed up an indictment.
I knew it was going to be one of two options, murder-2 or manslaughter-1
One was wanted. That other was acceptable.
We were given the acceptable option - Manslaughter in the first degree.
NY penal code defines 2nd degree murder as being "with intent to cause the death of another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person...". This carries two sentences: 15 to life or 25 to life.
The definition for manslaughter as being "with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes the death of such person or of a third person...". This has a sentence of 5-25 years with no opportunity for parole until at least 85% of his sentence has been served. Even credit for good behavior won't reduce his sentence to less than 85%.
It's a small victory, (is that even the right word?), for my family. We know he's going to be in prison for a long time.
Although I have no sympathy for him, I do not believe he intended to kill my sister. It doesn't change the fact that he did.
So what does it all mean? It means that he's still guilty of a felony. He's still going to prison and he's still destroyed many lives.
On the other hand, my parents went to court on Friday for a custody hearing. Two days before my mom told me that his father also filed a petition for custody. If that's not a slap in the face to my sister and my family then I don't know what is. Paternal grandparents be damned, these people disgust me. Fortunately, it was also a small victory. My parents were awarded sole custody with no visitation for now. There's a second hearing in late August.
This whole process has me on pins and needles. This wouldn't be the first time the justice system failed someone. It wouldn't be the first time the courts ruled on fairness instead of what's right. I am trying so hard to stay positive, but always, in the back of mind, I hear what if...
What if the judge awards joint custody? What if someone happens to my niece while under their care? Do I write a letter to the judge? Do I let the chips fall where they're intended? If someone used their common sense they'd see that my parents are only getting through the days because they have CJ to take care of. That's not to say that they can't not take care of her, but it's making the grieving process more manageable to them with her around. She's a beautiful little girl. She laughs all the time. She talks and she's full of the life that was stolen from her mother. How could someone possibly think taking that away is fair and equitable? My parents are going to lose it otherwise.
And in all honesty, if that were to happen, I don't think I have it in me to be the family rock this time.