Patricia Hallowell tapped her gavel. “Mrs. Ruth Dunthorp, you may address the jury.”
“Your honor, I am the sister of the deceased, Robert Van Damme, and would like to confess my struggle to accept the proposed death penalty. As a devout Christian, and lifelong member of the Cornelius Baptist Church, it has been my belief that we must follow the Lord’s Commandments, specifically thou shall not kill. But, when I think of the lives he has already brutally extinguished, I have had to ask myself whether thou shall not kill can be reconciled with the suffering that this boy has brought to my heart, and so I must tell you today I have found my faith wanting, and not adequate, and ask instead for you to put this murderer out of his misery and condemn him to the efficient and painless death that the legal system can provide.”
Ruth looked down at her notes. “I will always remember my brother, Robert, as a wonderful human being, a caring and loving uncle to my children, and one who enjoyed every single day especially those spent out-of-doors, as a fisherman, a deer hunter, a sportsman, a man who shared his love of nature with others, and in this case with his good friend, Ray Elliott. I hereby ask that you send this teenager to the afterlife not just for the suffering he has brought me and to put an end to this chapter of my life and his, not just for my benefit but for his own good and to lessen the suffering that he would experience in jail at the hands of the other inmates, the guards and, when left alone, by his own conscience. Thank you to Judge Hallowell for allowing me to provide this testimony in memory of my brother, Robert Van Damme.”
Casey Bush is a Portland poet whose eighth collection Student of Hippocampus was published in 2018 by Last Word Press (Olympia, WA). His essay “Sisters Around the Cauldron: Mary Barnard and Her Sappho” was recently posted on the Berlin based website The Decadent Review. Casey is the poetic voice of Notes & Motes: The Vlatkovich Trio Plus One. He recommends Planned Parenthood and the Southern Poverty Law Center.