A Mother Defends Her Son, and I Sympathize
By Ken K. Gourdin
In August 2012, Joshua Isakson was shot by a Layton, Utah police officer whom Isakson attacked when police responded to Isakson’s home after Isakson assaulted his girlfriend and another woman. Reportedly, Isakson told witnesses that he would kill a police officer if any came to his home in response to the assault.
I commented in response to news coverage of the incident which can be found here (last accessed October 16, 2017): http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=56149052&itype=CMSID. The man’s mother defended him against commenters who said, essentially, lock him up and throw away the key (my phrase). In response to her defense, I wrote:
I do not doubt that the man who attacked this officer was not the son you reared, and to that extent, you have my sympathies. No mother rears her children thinking that they will ever grow up to commit serious crimes which will lead them to spend significant amounts of their lives behind bars. (Even most of the worst parents are, at the most, indifferent.)
If you have an image of your son’s jam-smeared face from his boyhood as he brought you a bouquet of sunflowers, I say, hold on to that image. I hope it will carry you through the difficult times which no doubt lie ahead for you and your family.
That said, at the same time, the boy who sported that jam-smeared face is not the same person who attacked this officer, and the criminal justice system owes society a duty (however imperfectly executed) of expending its best efforts to see to it that the law abiding are not preyed upon by the dangerous.
I wish you well.
In response to her accusation that the case had been distorted in the media, I wrote:
I agree, cases should not be tried in the media. Satisfying the public’s right to know under the First Amendment while protecting the privacy of family members, friends, and acquaintances of those charged with crimes (and of those who plead guilty to them) is a very, very tricky balance, one which the media and criminal justice system stakeholders often find hard to navigate.
Perhaps the only alternative to risking having cases tried in the media is to repeal the First Amendment altogether, and as bad as that risk is, the results of that alternative would be even worse. One of the media’s roles is to shine the bright light of day on government actions to ensure that those actions are above board, and one of the ways the media does that is to provide coverage of incidents such as this one.
None of which, of course, makes life any easier on you, your son, the rest of his family, his friends, or his acquaintances. Hopefully you are able at least to understand the media’s proper role, even if we can debate whether it oversteps its proper First Amendment bounds in any given case.
Again, may you and your family find peace and strength to face the difficult times ahead.