Today, the Albuquerque Journal revisited the story and managed to do nothing to advance the story and plenty to muddy up the water (ABQ Journal - Subscription). From the moment we saw the front page above the fold story complete with photographs of the victim (Richard) and the deceased (Romero), we were irate. The Journal published photos of both men - one showing Richard accepting judgment, the other a happy "family-man" photo of Romero complete with smiling faces provided by Romero's family.
(Sidebar)The Journal's sub-head (Ex-Con's Cocaine Habit Catalyst in Run-In With Vet) was even worse as it provided a sympathetic excuse as to why an convicted felon was out doing what all too many convicted felons do - break the law. Although the rest of the story did a pretty good job of describing the lives of both men, the bias had already been established so the damage was already done.
In defense of the Journal, an editor's note explained that the "The family of Elton John Richard asked the Journal not to publish a family portrait, citing privacy and safety concerns."
That should tell you something right there. The family of the felon feels it's perfectly acceptable to publish family photos with a convicted felon (Romero). They see no shame and there's no stigma attached - kind of like a badge of honor. Meanwhile, the family of the victim (Richard) is afraid to have their photos published.
At the very least the Journal could have found a photo of Romero with less spin and more appropriate to the situation. Let see... maybe a mug shot?
The problem with this type of human interest story posing as news is that when you get right down to it the details of the lives of the two men are immaterial. Who cares that Romero had helped people on the roadside - he could have just as easily been robbing them. Who cares that Romero owed $400 to a drug dealer. Who cares that he was a coke head. None of those factors are pertinent to the fact that he chose to attempt steal Richard's vehicle. He chose to threaten Richard. He chose to attempt to avoid arrest. He chose to attack a determined Marine that knew how and when to use the weapon he carried.
The sad fact is that if Romero had simply waited with Richard in his front yard for the police to arrive he would be alive today. But that's not the sad part. The sad part is that he would have probably been out of jail the next day and out of prison by now.
It comes down to the fact that the why really doesn't matter. The fact is Romero was breaking the law, fleeing prosecution, and endangering the lives of others - period. We really wish that this thing had gone to trial. We believe that the DA's case would have boiled down to the word of a decorated Marine vs. that of a dead felon.
Think about it. Richard ran 1400 feet down streets, across fields, and over fences in his socks just to end the life of Romero a convicted felon? As a jury member it would be hard to believe that Richard ever intended kill Romero. At best the scenario that the DA would have presented at trial would have been hard to believe not to mention that the forensics were not at all conclusive. What's easier to believe - that Richard ran 467 yards to kill a man or that he ran 467 yards to take him into custody?
Prisons are great place for people like Romero who repeatedly endanger the lives of those around them and somehow believe that they have the right to take what they need regardless of the reason. In our opinion that pretty well fits the definition of a sociopath - someone who's utter disregard for those around him allows them to justify just about any action.
Elton John Richard II is clearly not a sociopath or a criminal for that matter. It serves no purpose for the state to send him to prison. And it serves no purpose for Richard to have to pay off the Romero family whose kindly ministrations allowed Romero to continue his criminal ways. Now the Romero family is busy trying to collect more blood money by pursuing a civil wrongful death suit.
We've all been the victim of petty theft. It's an invasion that leaves you insecure in your own home - even if that theft takes place in your driveway. Richard did a job that the system failed to do... keep us safe from people like Daniel Romero. He should be thanked for his determination to apprehend a common criminal. He certainly should not be treated like one. If ever there was a case deserving clemency or pardon this is it.
----- Post Script -----
We haven't done an Eye Poll in quite a while. However, the more we've learned about the Richard's case, the more we've moved toward a complete pardon by Governor Richardson. We'd love to know what you think. Weigh-in on this week's Eye Poll.