Saturday, October 19, 2013

Maybe You Will Finally Hear Us

Eric Autobee
That's Eric Autobee.  Yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of his death.  Had he lived, he would now be 34, which means he was 23 when Edward Montour murdered him in the kitchen at Limon Correctional Facility in Colorado on October 18, 2002.

Montour was doing death in prison, life without the possibility of parole, for killing his 11-month-old daughter.  Autobee was a prison guard, as his father had been.

Montour pleaded guilty to the murder.  He was sentenced to die.  In 2007 the Colorado Supreme Court vacated the death sentence and sent him back to be resentenced.  Earlier this year, Montour was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea.  Trial is pending.  George Brauchler, the District Attorney, has been pushing for a new death sentence.  Bob and Lola Autobee, Eric's father and mother, have been pushing back.
Our family is suffering, and only you can help. We are not suffering due to the delay of Mr. Montour's execution. We are suffering because for 11 years you and your predecessors have tied this case up in court for your autonomous desire to pursue the death penalty against Mr. Montour. Enough is enough.
That's from an open letter they wrote to Brauchler asking him to let it go.  The problem isn't Montour any more.
All the while, it is our understanding that Mr. Montour will likely accept a plea to be imprisoned for the rest of his life in a maximum security unit without the possibility of parole In the meantime, our family sits without any resolution or finality, suffering so that our son's image and identity can continue to be used by you, not because you love our son like we do, but because you have greater political ambitions to obtain a death penalty verdict.
Of course, if they ran the prison properly.
Mr. Montour has become the scapegoat for the continuing failures of the Colorado Department of Corrections to both properly medicate Mr. Montour for his well-known mental health disabilities and to create a safe environment for the inmates and guards (like my son, a fellow guard). Unfortunately, nothing has changed since the death of our son 11 years ago. This is evidenced by the death of another guard, Mary Ricard. The death penalty is not a deterrent for inmates, if it was, Mary Ricard would be alive.

The solution to stop the assaults and killings in prisons is not the threat or imposition of the death penalty. The solution is to commit resources and energy spent in pursuing the death penalty to assisting the government in managing the mental health needs of the inmates, and at the same time, managing the safety of the prisons. We know firsthand this is a problem. I, like my son, was a prison guard and I toured the prison kitchen where my son died. This is where the work should be done - not only in honor of our son, and Mary Clements, but also in honor of Tom Clements.
That's how you honor the memory.  By doing what you can to create a better, safer place.  By not seeking political advantage.
What Mr. Montour did was wrong, but you should know that our son would not agree with killing the person responsible for his death. That is not the legacy he would have wanted. 
I don't know what Brauchler will do.  But I know what the Autobee's will.
At the trial, our family will take the stand to tell the jury that sentencing him to death is only shoving the real issues that caused our son's death under the rug, and that there are better ways to resolve Mr. Montour's case.
Prosecutors like to talk about the victims.  They like to parade before the judges and the juries and the cameras weeping mothers and fathers and children bemoaning their loss and insisting that the killer is monster who should be exterminated.  It's all about them.  All about the victims.  Do it for them.  Do it for the children.

Then along comes someone who doesn't want vengeance, who understands that peace doesn't come from more killing, that there is no closure.  Those people are ignored.  They're shoved under a rug.  Victim's offices don't work with them, don't invite them to address the court or the jury.  Prosecutors don't return their calls. 
They aren't real victims.  They couldn't have loved their child or they'd want to make another mother weep in similar pain. 
Which is not merely bullshit but deeply offensive, cruel bullshit victimizing survivors for political gain, to put another notch on the gunbelt.   
If you refuse to consider our wishes, as the victims of our son's death, then we respectfully request that you not use our son's name, images of him or our family, or any references to his (great) character during any stage of the case. If you do, it will only be to advance your interests and attempt to get an emotional verdict from the jury. We do not approve of this tactic and neither would our son.
The Autobees are not the first to speak out this way, not the first to find some peace in forgiveness rather than hate.  (Nor are they the first I've written about; see some posts collected here, though there are some others in that mix, too).  But they've been doing it for 11 years.  And for 11 years they've been ignored.
We have not been heard for 11 years and believe this is the best way to honor our great son on the anniversary of his death. Maybe you will finally hear us.
Sadly, I fear not.

h/t Bob W

1 comment:

  1. Good article.
    I´ve often been astonished about the double standards of some death penalty proponents.
    Every word in favour of the offender´s life is said to be "disrespectful" , but if the victims speak out against
    the death penalty, then there´s absolutely no respect left for them.
    We had a case of child murder here and when the parents, who are Christians, talked about forgiving the
    murderer in the media, they got comments about how crazy they must be.
    I do understand how hard it is to forgive and I don´t judge murder victims families who don´t feel able to
    speak out against a death sentence.
    But I really wish people who managed to have such a point of view would be treated with respect too.

    MY utmost respect and condoleances to the Autobee family.

    Greetz from over the pond,
    Jessica R.