Juror #97 Part 2, Collateral Damage

Definition: COLLATERAL DAMAGE – injury or harm inflicted on something other than an intended target. This is part II of a 4-part series, please read part 1 for the full story

There is no such thing as a victim-less crime although some would argue that a person who is taking illegal drugs, for example, that it only harms them.  But in reality, there are consequences for those around any crime, especially to those close to the ‘crime’ doer.   In all crimes, the headlines talk about the criminal and the victim.   Seldom considered or discussed are all the others who are deeply affected by the act.

It is easy to recognize that many are deeply affected although not directly involved in many crimes such as the terrorist attack on 9-11 as one that rocked history.  But every crime has both intended targets that are directly impacted as well as many others who in essence are much more than collateral damage, as they too are victims.  Poet John M. Green penned it well stating:

“People at war with themselves will always cause collateral damage in the lives of those around them.”   ― John Mark Green

As I delve further into the horrific case of Joshua Lee Burgess in Monroe, North Carolina we examine how many others aside from the victim suffered the worst of this heinous act. 

Zaria Burgess was described as “the type of kid to come in a room come or in a house and say, ‘Hey everybody’ — just wanting to make everybody smile.” (Quoted in this news report from 2019 along with other details about her) Any crime especially one of this capacity affects so many:

1 – The victims‘ plight such as happened to the beautiful soul of Zaria is an obvious horrific tragedy.  May she rest in peace in God’s arms. 

2 – Immediate family.  The horrors the spouse of the victim must have had on the day of, every single day since then, and for the rest of her life will never be the same.   In my sister’s plight of being murdered by one similar to Burgess my parents’ life was never the same nor was it for any of us.  She had a twelve-year-old son slightly younger than Zaria.  For privacy reasons, I choose to leave his story out of this article.   Many years later no doubt the memories are brandished and manifest a deluge of feelings for everyone of us.  The ways we as humans handle such experiences vary from person to person there is no script on how one should or does live their life post heartbreaking trauma.   May there be some form of solace for all who were blessed by knowing Zaria the fifteen years she walked on this earth.

3 – Family members and relatives. – My own daughter Erin has given me permission to share how it affected her.  She also was twelve years old and on the verge of her teenage years.  Shortly after the tragedy, she acted much differently than before changing her school and social habits drastically.  We as parents surmised and eventually were advised by her counselors it was merely the typical teenage rebellion and mood swings.  It was not until she had turned adult and struggled in her first few years of college that we made a shocking discovery. 

For the second time, her college career had come to a halt for personal reasons and we were forced to go to her place of residence and pack up her belongings.  In her bathroom, we found what undoubtedly was a shrine to her Aunt Mary/my sister.  Seldom had we talked deeply with her, nor did counselors uncover the deep down hurts, about what happened on that fateful day nearly ten years ago (at that time).  Yet the twelve-year-old had held onto the memories of the funeral and all she had heard from her parents and the adults involved.    This discovery caused us to throw out what both my wife and I had said were the ridiculous diagnosis’ from a Psychiatrist who insisted she had anything in-between bi-polar disorder and ODO (opposition defiance disorder).  Once being able to pinpoint that instead she had an untreated case of PTSD she was able to get her life back in order and today we are happy to say she is doing well.

Often the collateral damage is so deep it is hard to discover!

4 – The crime doers family – No family wishes to carry the shame and guilt of that brought on by a family member that has committed an evil deed that makes its way into the public eye.  Aside from the shame and questions a parent of one may have asked ‘where did we go wrong’ also brings along the fear of is my blood and DNA tainted? 

As the Executor of my sister’s Will I had a few meetings with his side of the family.  They were devastated and apologetic in every way.  It is hard to understand what it is like telling someone as I am doing in these writings what is like to have a family member killed by someone.   The feelings and horrid thoughts his family is forced to live with due to the collateral damage he caused are impossible.  How does one explain what it is like to have a father who did such an evil deed?  I had a brief acquaintance with a relative of J.Burgess, he has moved as far away from Monroe, NC as possible, which tells us much.

5 – The first responders and police.  If you watched the video link in part one we recall the sheriff stating – “The details of this murder are indescribable. Every officer and detective involved in this case is feeling the effects of what happened to this child.”  Not only the police but the firefighters and EMTs that generally arrive before the police, the coroner, the prosecutor, and everyone else as well is impaled with a film in their minds that is difficult to erase.  It is heart-breaking that so many have disdain for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our safety and endure such dangers and traumas like this case on a daily basis.   Put yourselves in their shoes.

While I don’t wish to make this about myself I share one experience I had merely as a time capsule.  Fresh out of MP school my first taste as a first responder happened at the age of 18 which would have been 44 years ago.   My partner and I were summoned to a Colonel’s house where a young soldier who walked into their backyard (while in basic training) had attempted suicide.   It was my first real experience in a blood-related scene and to this day I remember it vividly. 

44 years later.

Even as I am typing this story out my stomach churns from that first look at an injured person under duress.  Thankfully he survived and I have lost most of my fear of the sight of blood (a couple of babies and others incidents have lightened the fear).   I also was involved with the police in follow-up investigations regarding my sister’s death.  For years I replayed the yellow-tape scenes of her apartment.  The fiend who shot her also moved her body to her car which was a horrid sight.   Both film replays cross through my mind every time an incident such as this one with Burgess occurs. It happened again as Juror #97 in the courtroom and sadly I pause as it arises in my mind again via my fingers typing on a keyboard now.

6 – Community –  “There’s strength in numbers and we’re going to have to be strong together,” Alan Sturdivant said.  Sturdivant was a teacher and band director of Zaria. “A lot of tears, a lot of emotions,” Sturdivant said. “I cried, I cried last night, I’m still crying.”    Whole communities are part of the collateral damage doled out by a crime doer.  This article described how the school held a moment of silence before a Friday night football game and provided counselors for students and faculty suffering from the trauma of what happened to their fellow student and community member. 

Included in ‘community’ would be all those summoned to jury duty and everyone associated with the court system and a horrific case such as this.  It would be very difficult for anyone down to the person sealing envelopes to be put in the mail to not read about this case and have it not affect their thoughts and dreams.

7 – Memory lanes – Lastly, on the cover sheet for this post is pictured the home and scene where the crime occurred.  Many who have been collateral damage by a crime, suicides, and other tragedies find it near impossible to stay in the place where the tragedy occurred.  While some do not believe it is possible we have seen exorcist-type movies where homes seem to hang onto the evil spirits that remain in the atmosphere of a crime scene.  Real or not, it is very real to those who are collateral damage to any crime.  Some find it hard to even drive by the neighborhood or be near the vicinity of bad memory lanes.  It is real to many who hang on to the trauma and memories wrought by evil.

Without a doubt, this is a difficult material to swallow.  I share it as a Portico (a difficult or extraordinary place) story to help those who have been through tragedies to give hope that healing does come eventually come.  It has for myself, my daughter, and all our family members.  I also write to those who have been fortunate enough to not experience even a minor invasion of their lives from someone intending to inflict harm to find empathy and give space and understanding to those who have.   Some who are collateral damage are hurt as deeply as those very close to the scene.  It is not easy to overcome and it may come back unexpectedly, who knows when? Perhaps from a simple jury duty summons with Juror #97 at the top of a green piece of paper.

 As usual, this story does not end here, but if you do not wish to hear some ‘Bible talk’ on the subject feel free to move on.  But, come back for part 3 and walk away with empathy and understanding for those who have faced or face crime as the lowly paid first responders do regularly.  Better yet, hit that red button and hear examples of crime scenes and how collateral damage is viewed on the spiritual side …

Please don’t go away yet! Hit that red button for more. If this is your first time visiting Average Joe’s Portico, every post is written in two parts. You have just read the portion challenging the mind, body, and soul.  In The Portico, I seek to tap into your spiritual side, but only IF YOU DARE.  Tap the Red Line Below to read the Part 2 Spiritual side of the story.  (For an explanation of my madness – read the ‘Do You Dare’ Tab)

If You Dare, Click to Enter Into Joe's Portico (To See Part II of This Story)

We know from history that the greatest crime in history occurred when the most innocent and perfect man that ever walked on the face of the earth was sentenced to death and murdered by the most gruesome death – execution by crucifixion on a cross.  It was intended to cause extreme pain and suffering as requested by the crime doers.  But, it turned out to be something that the God of Psalm 97 I discussed in part 1had in full control.  He saw the need for salvation for mankind but justice had to be served.  It turned out for Good.   I explain this in full detail in a post titled  Six Reasons Good Friday Was More Than Good.

Recall the God of Psalm 97:1 – God rules: there’s something to shout over! On the double, mainlands and islands—celebrate!   Bright clouds and storm clouds circle ’round him; Right and justice anchor his rule. (The MSG version sheds light upon this dark topic, regardless of how gloomy clouds may appear, do not be fooled God has a bigger plan that has already been won)

Yes, there was collateral damage for all in the crime against Jesus at the time it happened.  All seven points discussed earlier were present.  How people respond to situations vary.  For some it causes them to become devoted to something greater than what happened.  It is why there are many great ministries helping with domestic abuse survivors,  un-planned pregnancies, veterans assistance, trauma survivors counseling centers, and more.  It is why some people dedicate themselves to the armed forces, fire fighting, police, hospitals and more.  Yet others go the other way.  In Jesus situation there was one who was a closet liar and thief who took greed to another level by selling Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.  His name was Judas.

After realizing what a horrible thing he had done while witnessing a man, who gave everything to him being killed because of his deed, we read what happened to Judas in Matthew 27:5  “Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.”  In this case part of the collateral damage happened to one of the parties involved in committing the crime.  This is not uncommon.  Many prisoners are put on full watch to prevent them from harming themselves to take the easy way out of their just consequences.  My sisters murderer was on suicide watch, but he succumbed to a heart attack.

The other eleven disciples responded the exact opposite of Judas.  They became 100% sold out to living as Jesus did.  The whole book of Acts tells of miracles that happened through their faith just like Jesus because they had faith in Him.  All but one of the Apostles also ended up dying to fight evil and leading people to salvation.

Immediately after Jesus returned and sent the Apostles on their mission we read that the Disciples (committed followers) appointed a replacement for the collateral damage.  I often wonder, could Judas not have been forgiven for his sins and remained as one of the twelve?  Or was he given an immediate judgment for what he had done?  Jesus forgave the man on the cross next to him who was a thief being crucified for his crime and it says he would see Jesus again in heaven. The other chose to go the other direction, as did Judas.   Perhaps God left one example of the twelve for all to realize, we have choices and ultimately the consequences are paid either by oneself or covered by faith in Jesus who covered our evil deeds by His death.  Death that gory detail no one likes to talk about.

Speaking of not talking about hard details let’s look at that discussion the Disciples had about Judas:

Peter spoke as written in Acts of the Apostles 1:16, 18-19 NLT   ‘“Brothers,” he said, “the Scriptures had to be fulfilled concerning Judas, who guided those who arrested Jesus. This was predicted long ago by the Holy Spirit, speaking through King David. 

Judas had bought a field with the money he received for his treachery. Falling headfirst there, his body split open, spilling out all his intestines. The news of his death spread to all the people of Jerusalem, and they gave the place the Aramaic name Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.

Wait a second, didn’t that other verse say Judas died from hanging?  Is that a contradiction?  No it is not read here for a detailed explanation.

The author of Acts is a man named Luke who was a doctor.  With the full gruesome details he explained what happens to someone who hangs them self and is not taken down for a few days.  Because the body is in the hot sun it…  If you want the gruesome details read the above link, otherwise settle for the fact there is no contradiction surrounding Judas’ death.  Rather, it is two descriptions given by two different authors of the same event.

What the two different descriptions tell you is the difference between what the first person on a crime scene experiences and a mere news report.  It explains how a victim of a crime fully understands the need for justice versus people who just read about it and hear opinions from politicians that claim to be soft-hearted.  It explains why some people would rather gloss the facts over and just say someone hung themselves so perhaps more collateral damage is not created.  Or it may be to either lighten a crime or to exploit it for political gain.

Just in the few words we see many items to ponder when you put yourself in others shoes.  It is a heavy issue to be one to decide what price should be paid for a crime.  In Jesus days, not only were murderers given the heaviest penalty of death, but so were thieves as mentioned.  Not mentioned is the fact that in the early AD years and prior adulterers were stoned to death.  Crime was low not because they had banned swords to keep people from killing people, but because the consequences were severe.

When someone did something really awful such as Judas did, the place of the deed (in this case his hanging) was called out so that others would learn from the deed and hate what was done.  It says they called the place a ‘Field of Blood.’  Perhaps if crimes were dealt with more severely people would be deterred from committing them.   Perhaps homes, where murders were committed, should be burned down so no one would be haunted by the scene.  People would remember from the burn marks and a cold name to remind us that a cold thing took place in that spot.  Perhaps they would be deterred from repeating such a heinous act.

While the topic has been another heavy one here in Solomon’s Portico er.. Average Joe’s Portico that is, perhaps it is time to face the reality that our world has slipped into a darker place.  Memorial Day was supposed to be a day of somber remembering those who died for our freedom.  Yet we read in the headlines instead that people were out partying heavily and fourteen mass shootings took place. Not the type like the deranged kid did in a Texas elementary school but just everyday gatherings. .

In this case in Monroe, North Carolina no gun was used, but a deranged man killed his own daughter essentially twice. First with his bare hands and second with a knife to leave a message. Outlawing guns will not solve the problem, nor knives, or rocks, or baseball bats, and man always has hands. The problem is rampant evil gone unchecked by an overworked justice system with its hands tied by red-tape and by get-off-easy punishments.”

Even then, the solution of better laws and a better justice system is limited if God is left out of the picture.   Let us pray that collateral damage produces more disciples who see the evil and lead people to true salvation.   Just as an evil deed can spread and cause much havoc, the light of Jesus disciples can spread and bring healing to a nation.   When light is sown like seed it grows and illuminates a dark world.  

Let us pray that we live not in the memory of a Judas-like field of blood, but that we live by the saving Grace of the blood of the Lamb.    Let us be positive Collateral Damage! 

We can change this if we fully turn to the God Psalm 97 as it ends in verses 11-12…

Light is sown like seed for the righteous and illuminates their path,  And irrepressible joy is spread for the upright in heart who delight in His favor and protection.

12  Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous ones those whose moral and spiritual integrity places them in right standing with God, And praise and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.”

Juror #97, an average Joe just like you, let’s change the world!

 P.S. – I do not like popup ads, sign-up requests, book/conference promos, and requests for donations everywhere don’t you?   But, getting the word out about new posts for a 100% free-to-you website is a tough task on social media.  If you would like to be notified about new posts and occasional insiders only heart-pours, pop me a quick email to JoesPortico@gmail.com, and I’ll add you to my mailing list.   And please make a comment if you have one, we all love interaction and opinions from readers and I don’t claim to be an expert on anything.

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