Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Sausage Factory

"Shit happens."
One of my clients was alleged to have said that, dismissively, after watching on television the news story about a murder he had committed a couple of hours earlier.  
Shit happened to him, too.  He'll have to serve 30 full years in prison before he's first eligible for parole.  If the law at the time had allowed a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, he'd have gotten it, but the reality is that the Parole Board will almost surely see to it that he serves something very close to that.  It certainly won't let him out after "just" 30 years.
It's been a long time since I handled that case, probably 17 years or so ago.  I haven't tracked my client's progress through Ohio's prison system, and I'm not looking him up now.  But I'd lay odds that he's at the Toledo Correctional Institution.  That's where most of the serious bad guys from Toledo end up.  For its own reasons, the prison system mostly prefers to put prisoners close to their homes.
Shit also happened to Keith Dressel, too.  He was a detective in the Toledo Police Department.  The shit in his case was Robert Jobe who shot Dressel to death while Dressel was trying to arrest him.  Although Jobe was only 14 at the time of the killing, the state tried him as an adult, attempted to convict him of aggravated murder so that he could get sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.  The jury said no, it's simple murder (plus a firearm specifiction).  That means 18 to life.  His first parole hearing will be in 2024. The Parole Board won't let him out then, either.  Shit happens.
Then there's the officer's widow, Danielle.  Her husband's murder was obviously traumatic.  Shit that happened to her.  I've heard stories about her continuing bitterness.  She wanted, they say, young Jobe to get death, which wasn't a legal option.  She's embittered at the system, they say, that insists on giving rights to people who are charged with hurting cops.  These are stories, word on the street.  I've never met her.  I don't pretend to know the depth of her pain and the bitterness she feels.  But some of it is public.
I wrote this, in a different context, back in October.
In Toledo, the other day, some guys were on trial for assaulting cops. The verdict didn't go as the state (and the cops) hoped. See, the jury just didn't believe the police version of what happened. That led to considerable community outrage, including this letter to the editor of the Blade from Danielle Dressel, the widow of an officer killed on the job. She writes:
The detectives were doing their jobs, working on an ongoing investigation, when they were called names by these attackers. The detectives identified themselves as police officers. These men not only physically attacked the detectives, but attempted to steal their guns and badges. Out of the seven men who attacked our officers, only three were tried, and only one was convicted of misdemeanor assault. This is tragic.
Don't misunderstand me. I feel for her. But she wasn't there. She doesn't know that the officers were called names. She doesn't know that they identified themselves. She doesn't know that the defendant's tried to steal guns and badges. She believes it because it's the police version. She believes it because she's on their side. She believes it because to her, all cops are victims. I understand why she might feel that way given her history. But her blind belief that whatever the police say is true, that infallibility (if not invulnerability) comes with the job, doesn't make it so.

The jury knew better. So the jury must be at fault.
Like I say, shit happens.
Jobe has been in prison for a couple of years.  He's been held in a youth facility because he was under 18.  But now he's legally an adult, so they're putting him in adult prison.  Toledo Correctional.  Danielle Dressel is, according to WTVG-TV, the local ABC station, "furious."
One of our comforts was knowing that, okay, he's going to get out in 17 years, but he's not here. He's away from us. And now we have to deal with the fact that he's right down the street.
Frankly, and I don't mean to be callous about this, I don't know what there is for her "to deal with." It's not like she's going to be bumping into Jobe at the grocery store or the gym.  They'll be "neighbors" only in the most attenuated sense of the word.  She won't see him.  He won't see her.
He's taken away my son's father. My son will never get to see him again. We will never get to see Keith again, yet Robert Jobe has the ability to see his mom anytime she wants to come visit.
So maybe that's it.  It'll be easier for Jobe to see his mother when she wants to see him.  But really, that's about Jobe's mother, not about Jobe.  I've lost a husband and my children have lost a father.  So the killer's family should suffer just as much.  Shit should happen.
The Hatfields and McCoys might have understood.  (Disclosure, I know some descendents on both sides of that feud.  Good people who don't hold a grudge.  That was then, this is now.)
And it's not just Danielle.  Dressel's mother is furious, too.  But she's not just fuming to the media.  
Keith's mother, Lorraine, is furious the family wasn't notified before Jobe was moved. But the state doesn't have to do that. Lorraine says she plans to take action and contact state lawmakers.
Make way for Dressel's Law.  Coming soon to a state near you.
I'm not sure what it will be.  
  • Permanent banishment from the community where the crime occurred?
  • Permanent banishment from the community where the criminal lived?
  • The right of the putative victim or survivor of crime to determine the location of the punishment?
  • Crime victim control over conditions of confinement?
Something else?
Whatever it is, shit will happen.
Because, you know, it does.  And it's not something to treat dismissively.  But do they have to dump it on everybody's lawn?


  1. like you said Jeff... until you've walked in their shoes... personally, I don't think its much to ask that he serve his time elsewhere... I think a Mexican prison would be ideal.

  2. Jeff,
    As you stated several times in your blog you are not in any way demeaning or passing judgment on the family because you do not know how they feel. As an officer that responded to the scene that night and then the subsequent funeral, I can certainly tell you how I felt. It was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my 11 years on the job. While we as police officers know we could ultimately have to surrender our life while doing our job, it actually does not sink in until you have to witness it for yourself. Police are not supposed to die, we are supposed to be the last line of defense between good and order and when a fellow officer falls doing the job, we will fill that loss the best way we know how. It can be said we do a job that deals with unknowns everyday, these unknowns are what most people see on television. Then we always have the Monday morning quarterback to talk about how the police performed their jobs. If you need a reference look at the above posted YouTube video you posted. You are definitely quarterbacking on that incident trying to show the police acted aggressive (but oh yeah they were worried about the kids after they were exposed to the police actions first hand). It is not the fault of the police that the house that was raided was raided for drugs, actually I would venture to say the responsibility rests with the parents. Our concern is not the fact that a poor boy who killed a cop was moved to be closer to his home. Our concern is that this has now become a convenience thing and the very family that is standing behind him now were nowhere to be found while he was running the streets with a gun at 230 in the morning. If the roles had been reversed on that night, Keith shot Robert, then its all done and over right? If you think yes you are wrong as Keith would have had the rest of his life to deal with the fact that he killed another human being. This type of stressful situation would be with him forever. Officers that are involved in shooting tend to slip into various anti-social type behaviors and some abuse drugs and alcohol. I wonder if Robert Jobe would have enough of a conscience to even feel guilty for his actions. Sincerely sorry and try to make things right with whom he feel he should. Moving him to the Toledo area takes away one of the fundamental principles of prison and that is punishment. The second is rehabilitation, which we all know he has not yet reached that status and he surely is not being punished. SO in changing him to another prison and making his life a little bit of hell maybe then he can reflect on how he has impacted not only the Dressel family, but also all of Keith's brothers and sisters of the Toledo Police Department. Then just maybe the next gun toting delinquent that desires to kill an officer, judge, lawyer, or any other citizen could reflect on Jobe's story and realize that when I do something like that then I will be punished and I wont have the ability to see my family and friends for a very long time , maybe forever, just like Keith's. I hope that nothing does happen in our city whereas a police officer comes up to a family and says well you son was killed, but shit happens because I am sure that statement would make them feel so much better just like it did for me and the rest of the Toledo Police Department including our Dressel family.
    Officer Shawn Parra