Blue Byline

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Alleged killer’s privileges deplorable but (for now) defensible

Post by Brian O'Neill on Oct. 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm with 7 Comments »
October 21, 2012 7:40 pm

Christopher Monfort is getting a television.

That simple and innocuous statement has sparked an outrage. If you are unfamiliar with the name and the context, or have trouble recalling, let me fill in the blanks.

November 6, 2009 was a cold, dry day. I remember parking my car and walking through a brisk wind as my path began crossing with a growing number of police officers. In tens, hundreds and then thousands, we filed en masse into the Key Arena for the memorial service of a Seattle police officer by the name of Timothy Brenton.

Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton/ AP Photo

Just a few days prior, Brenton and his student officer, Britt Sweeney, were sitting in their patrol car on Halloween night when a man suddenly appeared out of the dark. From close range he began shooting into their vehicle, wounding Sweeney. Tim Brenton, a military veteran and father of two, died at the scene. He became the first of five police officers to die in the bloody killing season that continued into early 2010.

During Brenton’s memorial service we viewed pictures of a young man whose smile lit up the large screen; we laughed as his fellow crew members shared funny anecdotes and personal stories; we cried as family members described the good man who had been taken from them. Ironically, the seven day manhunt for his killer ended moments after the service with the news that a suspect, Christopher Monfort, had been arrested.

Monfort, 44, was soon charged with homicide, and King County Prosecutor Dan Satteberg announced he would seek the death penalty. Monfort now awaits his trial, scheduled for this time next year, in solitary confinement at the King County jail. He is isolated in a medical cell due to the paralysis brought on by a bullet wound he received in his 2009 arrest.

Which brings us to the controversial announcement (Trib 10/20), by jail director Claudia Balducci, that Christopher Monfort will get a television set for his cell. She cited humanitarian reasons for the unprecedented decision, a statement which provoked an immediate and angry backlash from the friends, colleagues and family members of Monfort’s alleged victim, Officer Timothy Brenton.

And they are mad as hell. Nearing the third anniversary of his death, the Seattle police guild president, Rich O’Neill, spoke for many when he stated that Balducci’s concern for Monfort’s loneliness was an insult to the fallen officer’s family.

But is this controversy really about a simple, innocuous statement about a television? Of course not.

This is about the inequity of loss. Pain and grief inevitably follow violent crime, and these are costs paid by the victims or the family they left behind. The suspects, who may have little remorse for their actions, may go to jail. There, while they await trial, they receive free medical care and maybe, just maybe, a television.

I do not like Balducci’s decision. As much as I dislike it, however, I cannot condemn it. The one undeniable truth that prevents me is that Christopher Monfort, like every other individual who stands before our courts, remains innocent until he is proven guilty. Despite that he is in custody on strong evidence that he killed a police officer, or that his paralysis is the alleged result of his bungled attempt to kill another officer while trying to escape custody, the jail’s neutral concern for his well being is simply an impartial exercise of our system of justice.

That is and should be the case, at least until a jury of Monfort’s peers, after reviewing the evidence in a fair and open trial, should find him guilty of killing Officer Timothy Brenton on October 31, 2009.

If and when that occurs, we will be well past this discussion. Until then, let Monfort have his TV.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. It’s a pity that prisoners have such a tight hold on the judicial
    system. A 1960’s transistor radio would do with tinny Chinese
    earphone plugs. When the battery goes down wait for a day to
    get another one.
    We need to get used to reporting when there are credible threats
    to anybody. Talking to a cop might save a cop or somebody else.
    The police don’t have eyes and ears everywhere. We need to be
    responsible citizens and do our part even when it anonymously.

  2. MrCarleone says:

    If Chris does not have one in jail, once he’s sent to the Washington State Prisonyland Hotel Chain, he will have a flat screen with cable, with free medical, free gym membership,free meals, and free physical therapy.

    Why, he’ll even have the ability to obtain a college degree, on the taxpayers dime.

    Washington State is known as the Hug-A-Thug Capitol of the United States !

  3. HawkBat1 says:

    Well written, as usual, Mr. O’Neill.

    Wasn’t the number of local officers who were killed during those few, terrible months seven? Brenton, Renninger, Griswold, Owens, Richards, Mundell all in 2009 and Deputy Bernard from Grant County in the first couple days of 2010?

  4. ginahopk says:

    He is in jail and what harm is there in letting him have a TV? I feel bad for the families of the Police officer that was killed. I don’t think letting this prisoner have a TV to watch will change anything. He will have a trial and if he is found guilty he goes to prison where he will have lots of privileges.

  5. Brian O'Neill says:

    Thank you for the comments. I apologize for leaving out Deputy Bernard from my recollection. His death in a crash brings the number to six in the months subsequent to Brenton’s killing. Ginahopk- if found guilty as charged, his privileges will not be what most enjoy. He’ll be awaiting his own execution.

  6. unconvinced4sure says:

    If Mr. Monfort is convicted of the crime as charged, he will not be executed for many years, if legal appeals run their usual course. He will have access to a television. Maybe the TV can be programmed to retrieve data from only the Fox channel. That is punishment that most rational people can agree is almost as severe as the death penalty.

  7. Inmates are on death row an average of over a decade. As of 2010, the average stay was over 14 years. That is, if the sentence isn’t commuted to life by some liberal judge beforehand. And in Washington State, yes, he will get his TV.

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