Tampa’s courtrooms have been the public stage for many vile humans over the years.
Sometimes that parade of murderers, thieves and other miscreants ends in tearful confessions, sometimes in defiance, and other times in silence when justice is served. And we move on. We can lose our ability to be shocked by anything.
Yet, I am pressed to find anything that comes close to matching the horror in the final, tortured words Julie Schenecker said Thursday night after a jury convicted her of shooting her son and daughter to death.
“I apologize for what happened, what I did. I take responsibility. I was there. I know, I know, I shot my son and daughter,” she told the court as she prepares to spend the rest of her life in prison.
Caylx and Beau, her children, are the victims, and nothing that happened in the courtroom changed that. Until her final breath, Julie Schenecker will have to live with what she did. But it’s her awareness of the severity of her crime that was the legal issue all along, and now we have the answer.
The jury rejected her insanity defense, and that decision was just and fair. There is no doubt about her guilt, or that the crime was well-planned. She never should walk free again.
But even though the mission of the trial was clinical — guilty, or innocent — it was awash with emotion, rivaling anything we have seen in this town.
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I think about the jurors who sat through days of raw re-creations of the crime. It’s not unusual for people to groan when they receive a summons for jury duty, or to look for a way out.
The people of this jury didn’t do that. They met a basic requirement of citizenship in this country head on, and in a case that could emotionally tear at their souls. It won’t be easy for some going forward with what they saw and the decision they had to make.
The jurors should be commended, with thanks from a grateful city.
A question that still hangs in the air is what, if anything, can we learn from this?
Maybe not much, other than money, privilege and a fancy address gives no immunity from horror. You can live in Tampa Palms, like the Scheneckers. Or you can live in Avila, site of a recent triple murder.
It might not make any difference.
Julie Schenecker seemed to acknowledge that when she told the court, “I understand there are people who are affected, who may have just read about this in the paper. A child looked at their mommy and said, ‘Are you ever going to shoot me?’ I know this could have happened.”
I think the worst part of this is yet to come for her.
I’m not talking about her knowing she will never be released from prison. Lots of people go to prison for long stretches, or even their entire lives. People can learn to function in most any setting.
The worst part for Julie Schenecker came in the words she spoke to the court. Her lawyers argued she was insane and couldn’t understand what she did. Now we have our answer.
So does she.
She was there.
I’m not sure anything can be worse to live with than that.