Ross
Prosecutor
Experiences "second hand smoke"

“The first gun case [I prosecuted] involved a death of a young child who was with his friends, and they were all playing with a gun. One kid just accidentally just pulls the trigger. It hits the kid in the collar bone, which normally is not fatal, but it bounced off the collar bone and went straight through his heart. It's 100% preventable.

I think a lot of people don't realize how many children are killed over what we call accidents. That was about 2005, 2006. Then moving into adult prosecution… major felonies, and that's where you see the real, serious effects of gun violence. Day in and day out. That's most of the case load.”

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“[There was] a case which involved a murder - intent murder. It was a group of six different defendants who kidnapped and tortured two individuals inside of a music studio for a couple hours before shooting them both. One survived, one died. It was basically a case of mistaken identity… Both of these individuals were known to the community, loved, kind individuals. They were truly [in the] wrong place, wrong time. The effect on the surviving victim was really, really difficult to see and to work with. He was profoundly affected. It was his own cousin who had been shot and killed. [The victim] had been shot a couple of times but survived. He was effectively a broken human being for quite some time after that.”

One of the more difficult aspects is especially on homicide cases. Knowing that the family is devastated and want something that we can never give them as a prosecutor. Yes, we can give them closure, but a loved one getting murdered by a violent crime, it's just so difficult to process. That's difficult, because we know it doesn't end for them; whether or not the person's found guilty, pleads guilt and goes to prison for a long time. It’s still heavy. It's a lifetime of being without them. Part of what we're trying to do is make this part of the process as easy, because it's not easy. Every family that I work with, I give them my personal cell phone. I tell them, "I don't care what's going on. Call me if, if you have a question, you're worried about something, whatever's on your mind, day or night."

You can become involved in those cases. To some degree, you have to almost put up that armor… just the weight of the human misery which you have to witness, day in and day out, would just be too much. I think burn out is prevalent among prosecutors for a number of different reasons. Sometimes it's case load. Sometimes it's the type of cases you’re working with. We see that kind of violence. You can't help but associate it with your family… “What if this happens to somebody that I care about?”

But also, you want to have a normal family life. It's very difficult to kind of put that down, and go home, and try to be normal the t-ball game, right? You have to kind of learn to cope… otherwise, it is too much. As a human being, you can't see that kind of suffering, that kind of evil, and not empathize with it. [People] want some sort of justice or answers from you, which you know you can't provide. You can't bring the loved one back, and that's pretty difficult.

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People who don't know me, who I meet, they're surprised that I'm as opposed to guns as I am. I think people have an idea of prosecutor being kind of a law burner, pro-gun type. I couldn't be more opposite. I see the evidence of gun violence everyday…. [I see] what pro-gun culture does, day in and day out. I think anybody who is a human being who sat in that position for any amount of time and saw that kind of violence, that kind of trauma, that kind of effect on people… they would have that same sense.

[I wish] that guns simply did not exist… that we could live in a world where we didn't have to need guns. It's fantasy, but you see one of those cases, and it affects you. You form an opinion about the value of guns in our society. What's the trade off here? It's so easy for folks to disengage from gun violence. The noise of the evening news makes people just numb. They don't think about the long term after effects that the family has to deal with. The survivors, what they had to deal with. Recovery is recovery for years.