Criminal Justice


Lisa Holmgren awoke in the middle of the night to the mournful lament of a train wailing in the distance. She realized sleepily that the sound had not been real. She had just been dreaming again about how, when she was just a child, she anxiously watched her father’s train disappear across the horizon when he went off to the war and never came home. She sat up in bed and wiped the beads of sweat from her brow. It was a sweltering mid-summers night and the crickets were in the clutches of a chaotic serenade outside her bedroom window where the curtain fluttered occasionally under a light breeze.

She got out of bed and gazed out the window over the lonely farmers’ fields stretching out to the stars, hundreds of bits of flame splattered across the pitch-black sky. She scrutinized her forearms under the starlight. The scars from the needles were starting to recede and her once-collapsed veins now looked almost robust and she could feel the blood pumping through them rhythmically. She had been clean for almost 4 months and the methadone calmed her. She looked down at the juniper bushes in the garden, closed her eyes and deeply inhaled their fragrant aroma. She wished her boyfriend was not away.

She heard the door to her bedroom slowly creak open and froze. Then the all-too-familiar deep breathing as the footsteps approached her from behind. She clenched her eyes shut. “No”, she whimpered. “Please not tonight”, she begged.

In a deep and utterly sinister voice, he whispered admonishingly in her ear: “Lisa…”

“Please don’t…”

“Why haven’t you done it yet…” he said, his breath colder than ice.

“I can’t…”

“It’s a monster – a devil – and it will kill you tonight if you don’t kill it first…”

“Don’t… please…”

Kill it… or you WILL die… go to the kitchen and get the knife…”

“I… I…”?

“Go”!

A few minutes later she stood in the doorway with the carving knife dangling from her hand. “Go inside”, he said firmly and she felt a nudge at the small of her back. She approached the bed slowly and, when she was at its side, gently lifted the covers. She screamed in terror. An enormous snake was slowly uncoiling and sliding towards her, yellow eyes full of hatred and madness. “Kill it”!!! he shouted and she stabbed out as hard as she could and as many times as she could and fountains of blood splashed across her face and streamed down her nightdress. “Yes! Yes!” he cried, “You’re doing it! Ah! Lisa! There is another one behind you”! She had slipped and fallen in the blood and the second snake towered over her and opened its jaws wide. Before it could swallow her, she stabbed and stabbed and stabbed until she passed out.

*

Excerpt from Lisa Holmgren’s murder trial:

Prosecution: Isn’t it true, Ms. Holmgren, that you are a drug addict?

Defence: Objection, negative toxicology reports have already been entered into evidence.

Prosecution [waving off the Judge’s ruling]: Let me rephrase. Isn’t it true that you have been a regular user of heroin for most of your adult life?

Lisa Holmgren [head bowed, dishevelled hair hiding her face]: Mmm… mmm…

Prosecution: Ms. Holmgren… Are you… Are you sleeping? Members of the jury, Ms. Holmgren once again demonstrates her level of remorse by sleeping through her own murder trial!

Lisa Holmgren [mumbling]: I loved my kids…

Prosecution: So that’s why you stabbed your 2 year-old son 37 times and your 5 year-old daughter 68 times!

Defence: Objection!

Judge [roaring and wagging his finger at the Prosecution]: Sustained! You have already established for this court in exceptionally lurid and meticulous detail what this young woman did! Now, just stick to the questions!

Prosecution: Is it not true that your boyfriend didn’t want a girlfriend with children and that he was threatening to leave you over the children?

Lisa Holmgren [mumbling]: Yes.

Prosecution: Is it not true that you once left your children in your car for 4 hours while you went partying with your friends?

Lisa Holmgren [mumbling]: Yes.

Prosecution: Is it not true that you once encouraged your daughter to smoke a cigarette?

Lisa Holmgren [mumbling]: When the voices came, they weren’t my kids…

Prosecution: Is it not true that you deliberately and wilfully went off your medication?

Lisa Holmgren [mumbling]: Yes.

Prosecution: Is it not true that…

*

The Judge’s concluding remarks at sentencing:

Ms. Holmgren, in all my years of judging, I don’t think I have adjudicated a case as heart-wrenching as this one. Despite clear evidence that you suffer from acute schizophrenia, a jury of your peers has concluded that, at the time of the death of your children, you were both aware of what you were doing and aware that what you were doing was wrong. Accordingly, you stand convicted of the crime of second degree murder. As your counsel has undoubtedly advised you, I, as a judge, have no discretion regarding the sentence for this crime. Accordingly, and with a very heavy heart, I sentence you to life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 10 years. I hope, Ms. Holmgren, you find a way to overcome your problems and one day forgive yourself for the deaths of your children. If it makes any difference to you at all, I certainly do.

*

Day 1 of Lisa Holmgren’s incarceration:

She heard the heavy steel door slam shut behind her and stared at the Spartan cell. It was 10 feet by 10 feet with a cot, a sink, a toilet and a reading desk. As a convicted child murderer, the authorities at the penitentiary had put her in solitary confinement for her own safety. She sat on the edge of the cot, absorbing the sheer emptiness of her new home.

Then with a frisson of sheer terror, she suddenly realized she was not alone…

*

  • There are thousands of mentally disordered prisoners incarcerated in Canada.
  • There are close to 200,000 mentally disordered prisoners incarcerated in the United States.
  • Since 1983, over 60 people with mental illness or retardation have been executed in the United States.
  • 1% of the general population suffers from schizophrenia.

Stephen Harper wants to build more prisons…

About Requiem for the Damned

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