Friday, March 13, 2009

REPORTER BLOG: A Lesson Learned

Elizabeth Lowry

I have never been so affected by a story, as I was this past week. It made me appreciate not only what I want to do for a living, but the gift that God has given me—life, and more importantly, freedom to live the way I want to. I didn’t realize how incredibly precious life was and how quickly your freedom could be pulled out from under you.

Off to Court
I was assigned to a court story this past Tuesday, and was assigned to go to the arraignment of Stephen Dougan, the man charged with the murder of Crystal King. The arraignment was at the Athens County Courthouse at 10:30. I arrived early to set up my camera. I wanted to be ready to shoot the moment anyone entered the courtroom. But I had no idea what was about to hit me next. I thought I was going to just go, get video, get information, and that would be the end of it. But that was far from being the end. In fact, it might have been the beginning of something.

I found out that there were actually going to be two cases in the same courtroom at the same time. When I was setting up my camera, a beautiful woman peeped her head in, and asked, “Is this where the Hutchins case is supposed to be?” I simply replied, “umm not that I am aware of, I am covering the Dougan case.”

Considering I did not want to be in the wrong place at the right time, I quickly checked with the secretary. She replied, “no dear, you are in the right place, there are actually two cases going on. It will be about thirty minutes until they start. I don’t know which one will go first.”

So, I thought to myself, okay, I have thirty minutes, what can I do in the meantime. I didn’t have to think long, because the answer just fell into my hands. I needed to learn more about this other case. Who was this Hutchins guy? What was his case? Well, I didn’t need to question it for long, because I found out the elegant woman with the kind smile was actually the aunt of 20-year-old Andrew Hutchins.

I soon learned everything about the adult, no I take that back, kid. A kid facing adult charges. In the court's eyes, he is an adult, of course, because he is over 18. However, I know that I am hardly an adult, and still a kid in so many ways, and I am 22. Hutchins is facing up to twelve years in prison on charges he burned his girlfriend’s 20 month old daughter. Hutchins aunt sat and talked with me until people starting taking their seats in the courtroom.

The more I listened, the more emotionally drawn I became to the story. It wasn’t the story I was supposed to originally do, yet, I couldn’t hear enough from her. The more I listened my heart went out to her. As tears welled up in her eyes, hitting her cheeks, and streaming down her face, it hit me. And it hit me even more once Andrew entered the courtroom. That this WAS or IS so much more than just a story this is someone’s life, a family’s life, someone’s future, and a family’s future.

The aunt told me what visits were like with her nephew, through a glass wall, talking only on a telephone. She was limited to two visits a week. At least in court she got to see her nephew face-to-face. While I was shooting, there he stood in front of me. A 20-year-old boy, who just months ago, had a promising future. Not yet married, or with any children of his own, but still in school trying to get an education to make something of himself in this world. That was one moment. The next, he is facing more than a decade behind bars for something he may or may not have done.

I sat there watching after the pre-trial hearing had been granted a continuance; she tried to touch him, not even a hug, just her hand on his arm, to show him some support or reassurance, just anything that she and others who loved him were there for him. But that moment was short lived. A policeman intervened, quickly placing things back in order by reminding her that she was not allowed to touch the “inmate.” THE INMATE. Not family member, not young man, not person, not nephew, just inmate. And that was that. He was gone in an instant, just like that, and his aunt was left, just standing there, hopeless and lost.

Grateful to be Free
That’s when it hit me, just how lucky I am. Every waking moment of every day, just about all of us take the simple things for granted. I very rarely am grateful for the simple freedoms that GOD has given all of us. But that day made me rethink EVERYTHING I have been granted. I know that for me I need to start being more grateful not for the material things in life, but for the nontangibles...rights, freedoms.


Anonymous said...

I am Andrew Hutchins mom and we just found your blog on here and I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the kindness you showed my son in this story.. As I read this story I have tears streaming down my face. It's so hard to read about my son and what they want to take away from him his life, his freedom and yes his family.. Andrew has 2 younger sisters who just adores him and he in turn loves them more than anything. The little girl that he is accused of hurting he claimed as his own daughter she even called him daddy. If you would like to talk to the family of this young adult my email is feel free to email and we can set up a meeting.

Anonymous said...

As a friend of the family, it has been hard 2 watch how they have taken a guy who was trying 2 do the right thing by a single mother, helping with her children, and getting raked over the coals for an accident.. The impact of this has devastated the home of his mother and sisters, not just by his absence, but they were recently evicted from their dwelling because of this incident, an accident which did NOT even take place on their premises, and for which he is certainly NOT GUILTY!! I am a parent of 3 myself, and it is impossible 2 keep an eye on all of them all the time.. God gave us only 2 eyes.. Accidents happen.. The real crime here is the devastation caused 2 Andrew and his family at the hands of the system.. No good deed goes unpunished.. He's in jail only for being a nice guy in the first place by trying 2 help someone.. But if they want 2 hang someone for a kid having an accident, you better get some extra rope cuz yer gunna have 2 hang me 2, and probably everyone else in this world who's ever been responsible for more than 1 kid at a time..