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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Guest Opinion: In baby murder conviction, a measure of justice

Curtis Hampton

Lady Justice. There she stands. She wears a blindfold because she sees no color. She holds a scale that implies that there is an equal opportunity of justice for all.

On June 26, 2019, Lady Justice found baby Caiden.

Caiden Henry, 10 months old, was taken from this world by a cowardly individual named Joshua Mobley, a babysitter entrusted with Caiden’s care. On June 26, Mobley was convicted of second-degree murder.

I followed the case as it traveled through the Spokane court system to watch for signs of inequality in the way our system treats people of color. Caiden was black. Mobley is white. I am a volunteer for SCAR, or Spokane County Against Racism, a nonprofit that works to protect and encourage equality in our local criminal justice system.

So far, Lady Justice has kept her implied promise. Mobley’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 9. Because Caiden was deemed a particularly vulnerable victim, the judge has the discretion to sentence Mobley to life in prison.

Justice was served in two ways here. One, Mobley was convicted; he was found guilty by a jury after a two-week trial in which the jury heard powerful, conflicting testimony attended by grieving families on both sides. At the trial’s conclusion, the jury deliberated for two hours before reaching its conclusion of guilt.

Justice also was served in that Caiden’s mother, Crystal Henry, who is black, benefited from what appeared to be quality legal representation and guidance. This is a heartening sign, but an unusual break from historical precedent. History tells us all that the symbol of Lady Justice is a misrepresentation of life in America. The black, the brown and the poor continue to be underrepresented in our judicial system, but overrepresented with respect to harassment and incarceration.

One disturbing aspect of the case was that Mobley, while awaiting trial, was allowed to live free from incarceration. Bond was set early in the case at $250,000, which he posted, and was released from custody. His ability to post bond meant that for 28 months, while Caiden’s grieving mother would await the outcome of the case, Mobley was allowed by our justice system to live just like any other person of privilege.

He was allowed to enjoy the warmth of his close-knit family and even had the privilege to bring another life into the world, his fourth child, according to a June 26 article in The Spokesman-Review. I can only imagine how Mobley would have been treated if he were black and the baby he murdered was white.

The other side of this story is Crystal Henry’s ordeal. Crystal has had to survive each and every day reliving the fact that her baby is gone. She may also have asked herself what she could have done to prevent this tragedy. I can only imagine another day in which Crystal has to explain to Caiden’s sister, who is 7 now, that her baby brother has gone to heaven and why she will no longer be able to help her mom with the care of Caiden.

When the guilty verdict was read on June 26, the sounds that were heard were sighs of relief from Crystal’s friends. But the other sounds reminded me of a funeral in which families sob with disbelief and sob goodbye.

Mobley may have been able to post bond the first time around, but after the verdict the judge rejected a request to allow Mobley to live free pending sentencing. My only hope is that Mobley, even though he is still allowed to live and breathe, never gets the privilege and the freedom to embrace his loved ones ever again.

A verdict of course produces no real winners. A child is gone.

Curtis Hampton is a 45-year resident of Spokane and retired operations manager from the local aerospace industry. He is a member of the city’s new jail task force, SCAR (Spokane Community Against Racism), the NAACP, the Center for Justice’s Smart Justice coalition and the Spokane Regional Law and Justice Council’s Racial Equity Committee.