In the aftermath of the verdict in the case involving the disappearance of Rilya Wilson, the FACDL listserv was flooded over the weekend with emails congratulating the attorneys who defended Geralyn Graham. Graham was accused of abusing and then murdering Rilya- a young child in foster care.
Certainly the defense attorneys had a very difficult job in defending someone accused of killing a child. Could any charge evoke more emotion? And in the best tradition of our noble profession, both attorneys who were appointed to represent Graham stepped up and tread where few are brave enough and skilled enough to go. In the face of overwhelming emotion and sadness, the defense held the prosecution to their burden of proof. As to the murder count- at least one juror agreed. The mistrial on the murder count had the practical effect of saving the life of the defendant, who was otherwise facing the death penalty. So to the defense- job well done.
But what disturbed us over the weekend was that lost in the chorus of congratulatory emails was the absence of any mourning for young Rilya Wilson, who is still missing, and most likely dead. She was a young child, born into difficult circumstances, and placed into a foster care system that horribly failed her. Children depend upon us to protect them and provide for them until they become adults. Children like Rilya Wilson are the most vulnerable, without permanent parents to provide a safe and nurturing home. Rilya Wilson needed the State of Florida's foster care system to protect her, and instead it killed her.
A child is dead because of the incompetence and negligence of Florida's foster care system. And that tragedy should always remain foremost in our thoughts - beyond the natural urge to indulge in congratulating two colleagues who did an outstanding job in a very difficult case. So our last words on this subject are on the memory of this young child- Rilya Wilson. Multitudes of State officials testified that in the wake of Rilya Wilson having gone missing, changes were made in the way the State monitors children in foster care homes.
Rilya Wilson- hopefully your death will not be in vain.
Sorry to start the week off on such a difficult note, but this was on our mind all weekend.
BENCH AND BAR MIXER: This Thursday at Tobacco Road. 5:30-7:00 pm. More on this later in the week.
Have a good week.