Friday, June 3, 2011

Justice for all

I want to take a break from the usual family hoo-ha chez Wells and write about something that occupies my thoughts and my heart every day.

I follow quite a few writers via their blogs on the Internet.  Over a year ago, I stumbled upon Katie Granju, someone with whom I felt an immediate kinship.  She writes about her job and her life, but she is first and foremost known for writing about her family.  I feel like I know her and everyone she has written about, like they’re old friends I haven’t seen in a while.  I was shocked and saddened last spring when she wrote about her first-born, her son, her Henry.  You see, Katie had been harboring a terrible secret for a long time: she was the mother of a drug addict.  At the time, I was heartbroken for her but thought for sure that Henry would be able to fight the good fight and kick his habit.  Unfortunately, Henry lost his fight.

By April 2010, Henry had been through two rehabs and tried to stop the drug use himself.  He didn’t want to be an addict; he didn’t want the pain.  He had a loving family who did everything they could to help him: everything.  But as we all know, addiction is a terrible beast, and sometimes even love can’t slay it.  On April 26, 2010, Henry was assaulted and beaten with a tire iron.  He was then picked up by two adults who proceeded to take him to their home, give him a dose of methadone, and then watch him begin to die.  They watched him foam at the mouth, they watched him turn blue, they watched him choke on his own vomit, and they didn’t do a damn thing to help him.

Henry didn’t die that night; it was a much longer and more painful struggle. After rallying from a comatose state and even speaking, Henry died of hypoxic brain injury on May 31, 2010. 

Over a year later, there have been no arrests in the case.  None.  The Knox County District Attorney’s office wants Katie to go away; she’s like a pesky fly to them who needs to be swatted.  The detective assigned to Henry’s case said he was an “unattractive victim.”  The authorities even said that the two adults who gave Henry the methadone were Good Samaritans who had simply tried to help.

The truth is that these so-called Good Samaritans are drug dealers and pimps.  When Henry was able to speak after the brutal attack, he admitted to his mother that these people had preyed on his addiction and weakness by pimping him out to other men.  Katie informed the authorities in Knox County, and still nothing was done.  It is all beyond my realm of understanding.

Let’s set aside a moment the fact that Henry was a drug addict.  If he were any other kid who had been beaten to a pulp in a park, the authorities would have investigated it.  Let’s also set aside the fact that Henry was legally an adult at 18 years old.  Being 18 may be the legal definition of an adult in our country, but an 18 year old is simply not an adult, not mentally, not emotionally.  18-year-old kids are graduating from high school, starting jobs, maybe even starting families, but they are not capable of making truly adult decisions.  (And, anyway, 18 is still a TEEN.  Eight-TEEN.  How can someone be a teenager and an adult??)  If Henry had been 17 years old, would that have made a difference?  What if it had been alcohol and not drugs? 

Henry’s family has never denied his drug use and addiction.  He made some bad choices and ended up in some wrong places.  Who hasn’t?  Henry’s drug use should be beside the point.  He was beaten, he was given drugs illegally, and he was prostituted.  Not one of these things is okay.  I have always had faith in the American justice system, but now I’m not so sure.  Apparently the only people who deserve justice are perfect and have never done anything wrong in their lives.  As a mother, my greatest hopes and dreams and fears lie with my children.  Will they be kind and compassionate?  Will they fall in love?  Will they go down the wrong path, and if so, how do I stop them?  I’m sure these are the same things Katie thought about Henry and her other children as well.  People hurt her baby, and she wants justice.  She wants to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s baby; it may be too late for Henry, but it’s not too late to save someone else, maybe even someone you love.  Because drug addiction doesn't discriminate: this could happen to your son or daughter, your sister or brother, your mom or dad, or even you.  Isn't it time we said NO MORE to the drug dealers who are on every corner in every town?  Isn't it time to make them stop stealing the people we care about?  

Henry Louis Granju was a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, a cousin, and a friend.  He played the guitar and wrote funny stories.  He loved monkeys and he loved his family.  He didn’t deserve to die, but he does deserve justice.  He mattered. 

To read Katie’s blog, click here.

To read Justice for Henry, click here.

To sign the petition to support Katie’s fight for Henry, click here.

To read about and donate to Henry’s Fund, a scholarship fund for addiction treatment, click here.  

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