Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No number of wrongs make a right

Two years ago, federal officials came down hard on a number of people in Blanding, a little town in southeast Utah, for stealing American Indian artifacts. Dozens of people were arrested and charged. Three people, including the informant, killed themselves.
Now, the widow of one of those men, who also was charged, is suing the federal government because of her husband's suicide.
I've been thinking about this a lot since I heard about it. (The lawsuit, not the raid.) There have been claims that the federal agents just went in, guns blazing, and overzealously started arresting anyone they had anything on. I'm not going to argue those claims.
I am, however, going to tell you if I were on that jury, I would not give that woman anything. Not because I think the federal government didn't mess up or because the government should be beyond this sort of lawsuit; I can't speak to the facts in either case. I can say, unequivocally, that the federal agents did not kill James Redd. James Redd did. Period.
I get that she's saying this raid contributed to it, and that could be true as well. But he did it. He took his own life. He thought about it, recorded a final message and then used his car exhaust to intentionally kill himself. One thing I learned from all the suicide research I did, one thing that has stuck with me, is that suicide is a choice, and it's a choice only one person can make.
Can things contribute to that? Sure. Phoebe Prince is a good example. But you take a step back from that and see an already depressed young woman being taunted. The people who taunted her were wrong to do so, but they didn't kill her. She made the choice.
Dr. Redd didn't have to die. He probably wouldn't have spent much time, if any, in jail. His life wouldn't have been over. He made the choice. I'm sorry for him and for his family, but the fact remains that one person had the choice, and he made the wrong one.

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