Sometimes it’s not always easy to recognize justice as being the right thing.
There is currently an offer on the table that would send Parrish Bennette to prison for 18 years if he admits in open court that he killed Yashanee Vaughn in March 2011. He was 16-years-old, she was 14 and both came from troubled families.
It would be what they call 18-years hard for Bennette – no time off for good behavior, no chance for early release. Eighteen years with the only reduction coming for time he has already served.
Bennette is not exactly the most sympathetic of characters. Even though he had told his Dad that Vaughn was killed when the gun he was playing with accidentally went off, he would deny having said any such thing when detectives later questioned him.
And even after he was arrested, he refused to cooperate for months until he finally told police where they could find her body. Last month he was charged with assaulting a deputy in prison.
Members of Yashanee’s family were told about the possibility of a deal in a meeting Tuesday afternoon and were originally very vocal that they thought that 18 years was not enough.
There was a lot of screaming at first.
Yashanee’s family has had a somewhat tenuous relationship with the law – and not without reason. When they first reported her missing, there was a sense that it was a troubled girl who had just taken off. And the more the family insisted that she must have been the victim of foul play, the less people seemed to care.
So, when they sit there and hear about a plea deal instead of barreling forward toward a conviction, there was suspicion. And anger.
Then there was discussion.
The key – it was pointed out – was that if they did not reach a settlement and the case went to trial, there would be no guarantee of conviction. And, even if Bennette were to be convicted of the top charge, there are several mitigating factors that could result him in not serving much more than 18 years anyway.
Among the factors that could weigh against a conviction or add to a reduced sentence are the fact that he has claimed the shooting was an accident, that he had a clean record, his age and that, ultimately, he did help lead investigators to her body.
At least one member of the family, though, pointed out that no amount of time would bring Yashanee back and that there was a certain wisdom in accepting a guaranteed prison time for Bennette.
The family put out a statement late Tuesday expressing displeasure with the possible settlement.
“Today is a sad day for justice for Yashanee and her family,” the statement said.
Yashanee’s grandmother, Reynelda Hayes, added: “It’s my time to mourn. I’ve held my family together for two years and now my heart is filled with tears and regrets we could not save my granddaughter from this monster.”
The family’s statement also states they believe that Bennette had help., something investigators strongly dispute.
Sources says that while Bennette did ask a friend to hide the gun, there is not a shred of evidence that anyone was else was involved in either the murder or the disposal of Yashanee’s body afterward.
If no settlement is reached, the trial is scheduled to begin on February 1.
Even though Bennette would be required to state what happened when he killed Yashanee, there’s a strong chance we’ll never really know what happened; certainly not why.
The problem is that even if it went to trial, there’s an equally good – if not better – chance that the pictured will become even more muddled as the defense could very well do everything they could to make Yashanee the target.
As a relative of Yashanee’s pointed out today, whether he receives 18 years or 25, no amount of time is going to bring her back. So, while a plea may not make anyone happy, it may just be the only just answer.