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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

Flowers for the innocent…

Good morning, Netizens...

Try as I might, I simply cannot fathom the logic behind the juror who sent flowers to Clifford Helm. Of course, there are several parts of the trial itself that defy my logical limitations. Most recently, it defies my logic or my imagination why jury forewoman Rebecca Backstrom sent flowers to Clifford Helms after the members of the jury found him not guilty of killing the five Schrock children. At very least, one would think, that she would have felt the motivation to send flowers to the Schrock family care of their Mennonite Church near Deer Park.

Granted, the trial was a long and arduous affair for all concerned. The judge did not allow the jury panel to review the really icky parts of the crime scene, the dead children laid in a row in the barrow pit, because the defense attorneys objected. To some degree I understand that the sight of mangled children's bodies most certainly would drive most people into demanding retribution of some kind. Hankies would have necessary for the entire court room had those grisly pictures made it into the public record.

Granted, to most people peering in at the legal process from the outside of justice incarnate, the Defense argument that Helms passed out from a coughing fit while behind the wheel was a bit specious. Let us simply call it, for the sake of the argument, a clever contrivance, and after all, isn't that what high-priced lawyers are paid to concoct?

There is one legal matter which, although my source might be incorrect, had the prosecutor filed charges of involuntary manslaughter against Helms rather than vehicular homicide, Clifford Helms would have been remanded into the custody of the unsmiling jailers for a period of time with no hope of legal contrivances. Instead, having been found not guilty of homicide, he was given a get-out-of-jail free pass, and all charges were dismissed. Something is wrong here. If you kill five children in a horrific car accident, you are guilty of, at the very least, involuntary manslaughter. You do not get a floral bouquet if you are convicted of such a crime. You get a lovely set of chrome-plated handcuffs and a trip to the penal system. That is logical, and therefore should be justice.

My other argument has always been and will always be that justice discriminates in favor of those who have the financial well-being to pay their own attorneys' fees, as well as to pay various high-priced consultants which certainly played a role in the Helms' trial. The poor are unfairly incarcerated. Moreover, if you are a working stiff living paycheck to paycheck, and you kill five children in a horrific car wreck, you probably will fall on the graces of the Public Defender and thus, your defense is marginal at best. Particularly if you are naively unaware of the intricacies of the legal system, you probably would talk to the investigators from the Washington State Patrol after the accident, and your goose would be cooked in fairly short order. Logic thus suggests that Helms beat the system with a combination of keeping his mouth shut, good fortune and good legal representation. Is that logical? Ask O.J. Simpson. Is it fair? Who said logic was always fair in a court of law? I submit money talks louder in a court of law than logic or even factual evidence, and I submit that is wrong, logical perhaps but wrong.

As for Rebecca Backstrom's gift of flowers, logic tells me that, were she capable, right now she would probably not send flowers to Clifford Helms' family if she conceived of the public outcry her actions would trigger. It would have been emotionally laudable, entirely logical and defensible had she sent flowers, instead, to the Schrock family members.

Granted, Clifford Helms' life will never be the same, but then neither will the lives of the five Schrock children.

Of course, your results may differ.


Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.