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Our View: Justice

Redwine trial proves the system works, if slowly

It has been only a week since the denouement of the trial of Mark Redwine for the 2012 murder of his 13-year-old son, Dylan.

Redwine was convicted of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death. He will be sentenced in October.

This tragic human drama has inhabited the collective psyche of people in the immediate region – and much farther afield – for a very long time. The distressing event likely made some people question their worldview and inner sense of security.

How could a father kill his own child – here in an idyllic small town, where so many people have known each other and each other’s families for decades, where even if you don’t know a person, you’ve seen them before, in the grocery store, at an event in Buckley Park, on the river trail? More specifically, how could this man – a man known to many in the community – have committed such a heinous crime, such an act of moral depravity?

How are we to integrate this experience, accept it, understand it (if it can be understood) and move on?

Those of us who did not know Dylan cannot begin to grasp the trauma and grief visited upon his family and friends. We know that certainly the trial – nine years after Dylan’s disappearance – broke open the emotional wounds inflicted by his loss.

Media coverage no doubt made it more difficult for them to handle, and the Herald, like other outlets, bears some responsibility for that pain. The challenge of balancing the public’s right to know, the media’s role as government watchdog and the family’s suffering is a tremendous one that journalists struggle with regularly.

What more can (or should) be said about the trial?

“Thank God it’s over,” has been a common refrain.

Still, a few things should be said.

Our justice system prevailed, though it took many years for the case to come to trial, after many delays for many reasons. The jury of 12 (plus four alternates) sat patiently through a lengthy and often disturbing process, contributing almost six weeks of their own lives to the trial, before coming to a decision.

Prosecutors and law enforcement officials who had been frustrated for years as they tried to piece together what had happened to Dylan – and then prove it, beyond a reasonable doubt – showed themselves more than up to the challenge. Sixth Judicial District prosecutors were lucky to have the assistance of prosecutors from Boulder and Jefferson counties.

The single most important piece of evidence in the trial was Dylan’s skull, found by tourist hikers who did their part in notifying law enforcement, helping them relocate it and testifying at the trial. They “did the right thing,” words we often use offhandedly – though it proved to be an unexpectedly lengthy and difficult process for them, too.

And yes, the public defender’s office fulfilled its role in providing a competent defense for the accused, guaranteed to all Americans by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.

We don’t mean that our system prevailed because Redwine was convicted. We mean it functioned as it is intended, through a process designed to protect the lives and liberty of individuals and society as a whole.

Redwine, 59, now faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. He could receive the maximum sentence and serve only the mandatory minimum, which is 75% of his sentence, or 36 years. It’s even possible he could get out sooner, depending on the Department of Corrections’ decisions. In any case, we may assume he will be incarcerated for a very long time, and possibly the rest of his life.

Now, perhaps, Dylan’s family and friends can begin the long healing process. And perhaps the community can begin to see itself as whole again, as well.

Still, we are not going to forget the violent taking of an innocent boy’s life, or the truth about his father, articulated so well by Alice Sebold, in “The Lovely Bones”: “Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.”