March 19, 2012
Sentencing Statement to Roody Fleuraguste
Margaret Hawthorn, mother of the deceased
To the court:
United States Judge and judicial philosopher Learned Hand wrote of an exchange he once had with Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. As they parted company Hand said, ‘Well, sir, goodbye. Do justice!’ According to Hand, Holmes replied, ‘That is not my job. My job is to play the game according to the rules.’”
Although I do not agree with this plea bargain decision, I would like to thank the prosecution for their efforts to do justice. I was grateful for an early arrest. A childhood friend of Molly’s who is now a lawyer in Colorado wrote to me, “There are no winners, only losers, in criminal cases.” That is how just how it feels. The game may have been played shrewdly and according to the rules, but I am not convinced justice is being served.
I am distressed over lack of truth telling. My daughter’s vicious death has been labeled second-degree when it was clearly a pre-meditated first-degree murder. The minimizing of a violent crime against a woman – any woman – troubles me. Second degree here, second degree there, and crimes against women seem less disturbing. It becomes easier to propagate a belief that women bring these things on themselves, and ultimately that they somehow deserve it.
To Roody Fleuraguste:
This may be what you, Mr. Fleuraguste, thought as you invaded Molly and Dan’s home. Today I will say very little about the person of Molly, the daughter who graced my life. I will not belabor my grief, either. These are not your business. I am not willing to feed any perverse desire you may have to hear about the pain you have caused.
Human minds and hearts are not adequate to the task of determining justice in the face of what you have done. Molly’s husband Dan Paul wrote that he didn’t think it is possible to put an equal sign between Molly’s death and any charge or punishment you might face. He is correct. There is no way to say Molly’s death can equal a measured amount of time behind bars. I heard the numbers 50, 40, 45, 42.5 bantered about in this bargaining process. It sounded like a real estate negotiation.
It has been clear to me since the day Molly was murdered that a very damaged person had committed this crime. At first I guessed you were a hotheaded young man who felt humiliated when your offensive advances were declined. I saw the murder as a horrific, but impulsive act. As more sinister pieces filtered in, I came to perceive you as a person with little respect for life – especially the lives of women.
Two things in particular chill me. The first is a note in your handwriting found in the little cabin in the woods that Dan and Molly built and lived in for a few years. The note said, “Zen Pete. God will be my judge.” I am told Zen Pete is a gang expression for “There will be serious trouble,” indicating someone is going to get badly hurt. You thought things through enough to go up to the cabin and write that note sometime before you invaded Dan and Molly’s home.
The second is testimony from your cellmate in jail, to the effect that you told him you had intended to rape my daughter at gunpoint. If she resisted, you would shoot her. You said you had done this before in Haiti, leaving the question open whether Molly is the only woman you have murdered.
As these things were revealed, I have had to let go of my picture of you as impulsive and hotheaded. I continue to see you as very damaged, but far more malevolent. Molly’s death was a calculated, cold-blooded first-degree murder.
Judge Smuckler painstakingly determined you do not have schizophrenia. To me it is conceivable you might have one of a number of other types of mental illness that affect your thoughts to render you dangerous and essentially untreatable. Damaged or mentally ill – I search for words and meaning to explain how you could commit an act so far beyond the pale.
I believe you are too broken, and pose too great a threat to the safety of women, to ever return to the street, here or in Haiti. However, I hold firmly to my commitment not to turn to hatred. I am not interested in seeing you suffer. I would like you to be permanently contained, but in a setting that – if you were accepting of treatment – would support and encourage you to redeem what you can of your life.
I agree with you that God will be your judge. You speak of the Devil having been in you since you were a small child. Broken as you are, I see you the way I try to see all human beings, as a child of God. I am certain God’s heart breaks for you as much as for anyone else in this situation.
I believe in a divine justice that supersedes anything my petty mind can imagine. This is probably what has spared me from the desire for revenge. Since the day you killed Molly, I have been graced with an unusual blessing – the miraculous freedom from a desire to retaliate. I don’t wish suffering on you. To do so would keep me trapped in sickness with you. My interest is in being able to trust that Molly is your last victim.
You are the most tragic person in this room. It is a sad truth that the country you came from has endured centuries of neglect and abuse from the rest of the world. I am not surprised that a person as broken as you might emerge from such a situation. But I am inspired by how many Haitians have come to this country to lead productive lives. You, who came and wreaked havoc, cannot undo the positive contributions of others.
Like anyone else in the circle of people around Molly, you might have become a recipient of her light and love. But it could never have been forced. It had to come honestly, straight from her heart, and it had to be the right kind of love. It would have been the kind of love that every person who is here today on her behalf knew. It would have been her kindness, her friendly smile, and her laughter. It would have been the generosity in her personality that inspired her to invite you, a newcomer to the farm, a young man isolated in a foreign land with little grasp of the language, to go fishing with her. It would have been the kind of love that invited you to share in her zest for life.
I wonder if you have ever known that kind of love. Perhaps sex at gunpoint is the closest you have come to intimacy. If so, that is a tragedy. Those of us who knew Molly loved and lost, but we have the blessing and memory of her love. You showed only a sick obsession that led you to destroy what you were unable to appreciate. Now you will spend a large portion of your life isolated in a foreign land.
What a tragedy you could not embrace the good fortune that befell you – that of entering the sphere of the Paul family. Dan Senior had planned to take you canoeing on April 30. The Pauls are a big-hearted family. They work hard and they play hard. One reason Molly fit so well into their lives, and they into hers, was a shared passion for drawing people into their adventures.
Now you will never know what it is to canoe or swim in a New Hampshire river in the summer. Instead of hiking in the New Hampshire woods in the fall, skiing in New Hampshire snow in the winter, or collecting sap from New Hampshire’s maple trees in the spring, you will spend at least thirty years and maybe the rest of your life in a New Hampshire prison.
You met your match in Molly. The Light in Molly stood its ground against the Devil in you. Molly risked her life every day she went to work. She believed passionately in her work – providing quality healthcare for women. She and her coworkers knew bravery. Maybe that is why she didn’t recognize the full threat you posed. Her response to your intrusion indicates she saw you as an adolescent nuisance, more a pest than a danger. Up against her ferocious courage, you killed her. My daughter could not know her courage would be your undoing. In standing her ground she lost her life, but she stopped you in your murderous track.
I don’t know how the next thirty or more years will pass for you. For me the thirty-one years of Molly’s life went by in a flash. I saw our three daughters grow up and go out to make their way in the world. I spent a beautiful weekend on the coast of Maine celebrating Molly and Dan’s storybook wedding. I have become a grandmother.
Your years will not contain the same things, but they will pass. Time is a rare commodity for those of us on the outside. We rush here and there in a busy world, thinking we would like to be less busy. You will have time in such abundance it will likely weigh heavily on you. But it can also be a valuable gift. You will have time to reflect, to think about who you have been and what you have done in your first twenty-four years. You can also think about who you want to be for the rest of your life. You have done enormous harm to many people, but you have an opportunity to turn yourself around, starting today.
I have volunteered in prisons in New Hampshire and other states. I am not one to complain about the cushy life of prisoners. I believe life expectancy among male inmates serving life sentences in New Hampshire prisons is about sixty-two years – roughly the age you will be when it is time to seek parole. I know the life you face in the intervening years will be lonely and hard.
I also know there will be resources. Avail yourself of them. Align yourself with inmates who are enough older and wiser to have found some inner peace, and learn from them. Sign up for programs to help you deal with your inner violence (what you call the Devil in you). Sign up for every program available that will help you turn your life around. Don’t be a thug - that path has already failed you. You have some street smarts. Turn those into intelligence and wisdom. This you must do for Molly and for the loved ones she has left behind.
I do not want to hear an apology from you today. It is too early, and apologies come cheaply. They do not carry nearly the weight of a sincere attempt to amend one’s ways. Should a time come when you have made a significant positive change in your life, there are safe, structured ways for you let me know. Such a change would constitute a more welcome apology than words shamefacedly uttered in this courtroom.
I have wondered in all these months whether there will be a specific time and action that indicates I've forgiven you. Richard Foster, a Quaker author, talks about four common myths on forgiveness. He writes:
o We tend to confuse forgiveness with indifference, to pretend what happened isn’t that big a deal.
o We believe that to forgive is to cease from hurting.
o We equate forgiving with forgetting.
o We believe that to forgive means the relationship can be just the same as it was before the offense.
I will never minimize Molly’s death. It left a gaping hole in my life and shattered some of my trust in people. I am forced to grapple harder than ever with a basic Judeo-Christian tenet that the world is good place.
I can’t imagine that in this lifetime I will cease to hurt over our loss of Molly. I did realize, some months after her death, that the joy of having had her in my life surpassed even the grief of losing her. But the pain is always there.
My work is not to try to forget about Molly, or to forget what happened to her. Mine is to remember and still try to live lovingly in a world where innocents die for no fathomable reason.
My direct relationship with you began the day after you killed Molly, the day I heard your name for the first time, as the sole suspect in this case. I have no face-to-face relationship with you. I don’t really know who you are, what makes you tick. What I do know of you is appalling. Yet you and I will be in relationship for the rest of our lives, whether or not we ever see one another again. You will never stop being the man who killed my daughter. I will never stop being the mother of a young woman you murdered. Each of our lives would be very different had you not done that.
Recently it occurred to me that I probably forgave the day it happened before I knew Roody Fleuraguste existed, or the day after, when I said I would not yield to hatred. I understand hatred as a consuming desire for revenge, something I haven’t experienced towards you. But do not confuse hatred with anger. I am unspeakably angry at what you have done; I just do not hate you.
Nor is this to say I am above pettiness. Although I still have the capacity to jump to anger over other things, I don’t have the heart to wish ill on anyone, even you. My point is, when the unthinkable happened God blessed me with a miracle. In other situations I have had to pray hard to be released from a desire to get even. This time I have been granted freedom from vengeance, right from the start. After an experience of this scope, I no longer burn with a desire to see people get what I think they deserve. I’m more willing to let God be the judge.
I will think and wonder about you, and will pray that you may receive peace in your heart. You would have much painful work for that to happen, but I hope you get there. The world can only benefit from another peaceful heart in its midst.
I have been a member of the Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) for most of my life. It is our tradition to minute certain pivotal events like births, marriages, and deaths. I invite all who are here to witness their love for Molly, and who choose to affirm a witness to nonviolence, to sign a minute approved by Monadnock Quaker Meeting, my home meeting in Jaffrey. The minute reads:
"On March 19, 2012, people gathered at the Merrimack Superior Courthouse in Concord, NH to honor the life of Molly Bronwyn Hawthorn MacDougall. We witnessed the sentencing of Roody Fleuraguste, the man who pled guilty to murdering her. Recognizing that no human system of justice is equal to the task of addressing what has happened, and that ultimately we can only look to a Divine justice to right what cannot be made right in this life, we signed this certificate to give thanks for Molly's life, and to commit to pray for Roody Fleuraguste, that he may receive peace in his heart."
Mark Twain is quoted as saying, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” I encourage you to stay in shape, stay limber so that every now and then over the next decades you can bend down and smell your heel. Maybe one day you will be ready to detect the delicate scent of a violet.