How could I forget?

Burnette, Chanell



How Could I Forget? The other day I had to tell my mother to dry her eyes, to please stop crying as I read her the letter I wrote to the Governor begging for my freedom after serving fifteen years of a twenty-two year sentence for second-degree murder, and a felony hit-and-run. All for something that I honestly did not mean to do. Something that should never have been labelled murder. But it was. And for this, I received a total sentence of thirty years with eight suspended to serve out in a Virginia Correctional Facility. Oh yes, twenty-two years minus the fifteen percent off that they give us. How could I forget their graciousness to give me a whole fifteen percent off of my time "based on the assumption that the offender will 2 continue to earn good time at the present earning level and will not have earned good time taken from the offender as a result of misbehavior?" How could I possibly forget that? But more importantly, how could I possibly forget the sound of my mother sniffling, trying to pull herself together and regain her composure knowing the anguish, the pain, of her missing her only daughter for the past fifteen years? And how could I forget the anger and awe in her voice when she told me about a recent case, similar to my own, in which an older white man hit and killed a black woman, left the scene in a state of intoxication, yet only received a sentence of twenty-four months to serve? Not twenty-two years like myself. But only twenty-four months. If the Governor decides 3 not to grant my pardon, that man, the habitual sex offender that he is, will serve out his twenty-four months in a jail and then return home to go on with his life, and I'll still be sitting in prison. Sitting in prison praying for the freedom to go home and be with my two sons who are now young men. The oldest at nineteen, and the youngest at fifteen. These two awesome young men were only six months old and three years old when I was snatched away from them for something I never meant to happen. A tragedy that we will all continue trying to heal from for the rest of our lives. Something that no amount of incarceration can fix. Broken hearts. My point in sharing my story is to communicate how unfair the judicial system is in 4 the state of Virginia. How is it that two individuals from different walks of life commit the same offense and receive such different punishments? In the very same start? Oh, why yes, because Virginia is a commonwealth state which in all actuality just means that they can do whatever they want with people. No regard for people's situation, or their lives period. The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary and Thesaurus defines the term commonwealth as: 1.- the body of people politically organized into a state 2. - a state especially conceived as a body politic founded on law and united by compact or by tacit agreement of the people for the common good; also: an association or federation of autonomous states. My question is: what common good is done if the law isn't 5 applied impartially? What makes that gentleman's life more deserving to be lived in freedom sooner than mine when in common we both share a deceased black woman? We have in common, he and I, a person, a victim, who lost their life by our hands accidentally, (though he was inebriated and I was not). Our common denominator: someone is dead. Gone forever. Does that gentleman even care? Does he dream of his victim as I did for years? Shed a tear for her? Struggle to see the good in himself? Wonder why he survived and she did not? Does he even think of her family and want their forgiveness? I do, and I have for the past fifteen years. It has taken me eleven out of those fifteen to even forgive myself for what I did. My victim, my guardian angel, was 6 someone very close to me. Though his may not have been, I am certain that that woman's life had meaning, as all of ours does. Each of our lives seek some purpose in the greater scheme of things. It is just baffling to see the way in which judges in this Commonwealth of Virginia seem to disregard this fact. I could be angry. But I'm not. Only disgusted. Disgusted, yet beholden. Beholden because without the insight of the inside, I would be incapable of vocalizing what is not so common here in this Commonwealth of Virginia. Written by: Chanell Burnette

Author: Burnette, Chanell

Author Location: Virginia

Date: July 2, 2020

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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