This show feels like it’s 3 hours long.
This week, we have Otis. At 16, who received three life sentences for breaking into a woman’s house and shooting both her and her daughter. The daughter was shot in the face and her teeth were all over the floor and the lower half of her face was just gone. Unable to speak, she was able to write a note saying that a black male had entered the house and demanded money. When the mother refused, he shot them.
The following day, Otis’s name came up as a possible suspect when a witness came forward to tell cops that Otis told her that he broke into the home and shot the residents. Police in the area were very familiar with Otis and his criminal record and picked him up.
Under questioning, he admitted to the shooting and showed no remorse. The detective said he almost sounded proud of it. He called the victims “bitches” in his statement and was more upset that he was caught than about what he did.
The mother died, the daughter survived, and since the incident has had 32 reconstructive surgeries on her face.
Otis took a plea and received three life sentences. His lawyer says that Otis did indeed commit those crimes and it is not an issue of guilt or innocence. He claims that Otis is a human being with potential and a different person than the one who committed these crimes. I would like to take a moment to point out here that the young woman who has had 32 facial surgeries to try to fix her exploded face and has to take over a dozen medications daily and is afraid to leave the house is not the same person she was back then either. Neither is her mother.
The daughter is interviewed and is very obviously a changed person. She looks absolutely AMAZING for a person who had the bottom of her face shot off. She does not like to go out in public and needs medication in order to be around people. She said that any time she goes somewhere, people ask her, “What happened?” I raised en eyebrow at that comment because I must say that I don’t notice anything that would make me wonder about that if I saw her in public and I cannot imagine people asking a person with a deformity, “Hey, what happened?” I get where she is coming from though because she sees and feels abnormal now due to all the reconstruction but still, that remark seemed off to me. She is clearly heavily affected by the trauma she experienced and-- meds or not-- will never be the same. She does not feel safe anywhere anymore.
Otis’s mother insists that he was just a child and would never do anything like that again.
Otis is 36 now and interviewed via a camera pointing at a pay telephone in the prison. He says it was dangerous and he fought and argued with people when he first got to prison but over his 20 years so far, he has tried to grow from it and stop the negative behavior.
Otis insists that we just don’t know the whole story. His “whole story” is that he was a child and didn’t go in there to shoot anyone. My take on the “whole story” is that he had a gun and a mask, he wanted money, he saw two young women home alone and decided to rob them and when they resisted he “shot the bitches.”
His new attorney makes a disingenuous statement when he says it’s wrong to keep someone locked up who committed a crime while they were in the 8th grade. When I was 16, I was a junior in high school. In court, he plans to tell the judge how much he’s grown. Hopefully, the victim’s sister and the daughter who survived will appear to point out that their mother, shot dead at 34 by this guy, has not grown since this happened.
We are taken through Otis’s childhood pictures and mom tells us that he’s always been a good kid. He came from a two parent family in which mom and dad worked opposite shifts so someone was always home. But then dad started “running around” and they got divorced. Mom says that’s when all the trouble started. He blamed mom for the divorce, he started hanging in the streets, getting into trouble. At 12, he became part of a gang and so begins committing crimes. Otis insists though that it was not his parents’ divorce that led him to the gang life, he just always wanted to hang out with older people and was attracted to that life because it was fun and cool. Note the word “wanted” in that sentence. Well, he got what he wanted: the excitement and fun of committing crimes. And now he gets to pay for that.
The psychologist says living in an environment in which there is a lot of crime can lure kids to do stupid things that can escalate to criminal behavior. I tend to tune out this portion of the program because I think the comments these professionals make are heavily dependent on which side is paying for the commentary.
At 12, Otis was arrested for an armed robbery and when Mom asked the judge to send him to a boys’ home the judge said no because Otis had a home and parents. The judge gave him 20 years probation and everyone -- including the victims' family-- seems to agree that had they put Otis in prison at that time, this crime would not have occurred. That may be true but that argument rings hollow to me. No one knows what sentence he would have gotten or how things would have been different. Mom believes that the system failed her.
Otis’s original attorney takes us on a tour of the old neighborhood and insists that Otis never had a chance in that kind of environment. His drug addiction was because someone else gave it to him and he became hooked. The attorney says that in Otis’s drug addled state of mind, he felt he needed to protect himself from the two women so he shot them.
First Otis tells us he doesn’t remember anything. I wonder if he remembers telling the police— at the time— exactly what he did, how and when he did it, and pointed out that he “shot the bitches.” Then he tells us that he knocked on the door and they opened it and let him in. He says at one point he freaked out and when he did, one of the women tried to grab the gun and it was an accident that they were shot.
Mom says he didn’t mean to shoot anyone.
Otis says he regrets it. Says he's changed. He’s been sober for 20 years and never had any disciplinary write ups in prison. His original attorney calls him a model inmate. That is great, but does not erase the crime that was committed and being good should not be reason to let a murderer go free.
The daughter doesn’t want him out and is terrified of making a statement at the hearing but she and her husband say that she "has to."
We’re told that the hearing was delayed and a new date was not set yet. Mom’s frustrated because she wants him out and waiting is difficult. The reason for the delay is because his attorney has been working on a deal with the DA behind the scenes. Otis got three life without parole sentences on these charges and his attorneys are trying to get that changed to life with parole. This would mean that he could be eligible for parole after serving 30 years. Since he has served about 20 now, in 10 years he’d be eligible for a parole hearing and may or may not get out at that time.
They eventually make an agreement and 36 year old Otis will become eligible for parole at age 46. The daughter is terrified that if he’s ever released, he will come looking for her. Otis believes that of course he should be given a chance. He claims that he regrets what he did every day.
The daughter was given an opportunity to attend the hearing during which a judge will decide whether or not to make the agreement official. She declined. I found that strange because she and her husband both said that she “had to” attend the re-sentencing hearing to show why he should not be let out, but now she is not going to the hearing to plead with the judge to say no because she lives in fear of her life. She is very upset at this deal, and I don’t quite understand why she won’t attend the hearing.
She shows us about a dozen bottles of medications that she has to take every day: anti-anxiety, depression, pain meds and a whole slew of antibiotics. Her sister is planning to speak at the hearing on behalf of the family “in two weeks.”
We are then given a “To be continued,” tag at the end of the program. I found that to be VERY strange as the hearing will either be yay or nay and I don’t see material worth another hour (this hour already felt like three) so maybe there is some sort of major twist coming? Why didn’t they just hold the show in the can until the hearings were all over and close it up with this one program? I guess we’ll see.
I didn’t buy Otis’s sincerity. I appreciate that he’s sober and doesn’t get in trouble in prison but to give gold stars for doing what you are supposed to do don’t fly with in any aspect of life. I don’t see anything praiseworthy about him behaving and it does not seem as though he was a proactive inmate that took advantage of education programs or vocational training. He seems to have just kind of hung out for the past 20 years. I just can't agree with letting this guy out. All of his good behavior doesn’t bring back that young mother and it does not take away the desperate pain, both emotional and physical, that the daughter has to live with on a daily basis.