For more than four years, the faces of those killed in the District have circled through the top of Homicide Watch DC. Children, teenagers, adults, the elderly. In photos they smile, or scowl. They’re pictured laughing, looking cool, or sometimes angry.
It can be too much to look at. To see who we’ve lost is to remember that each of them has family and friends, teachers, co-workers and neighbors. The community of people who’ve joined us here on Homicide Watch DC have opened their stories and the justice system for us in an incredible way.
When Homicide Watch DC closed on December 31, my sadness was in realizing that we will no longer see these people. Not because murders in DC have ceased, but because there is no media organization, university, non-profit or other group willing to make sure Homicide Watch DC continues.
The question I’m most often asked about Homicide Watch DC is what difference it has made. I’m asked if homicides have declined, or prosecutions improved. I’m asked if justice is being better served.
The truth is that I don’t know.
Homicide Watch DC is defined by the space that it has created for all of us to gather. I hope that however you’ve come to this site — whether you’ve had a member of your family killed, or a member of your family charged in a homicide, whether you’ve taught victims or suspects, prosecuted or defended them, or lived next door to them — that you’ve had a place to come to learn, to share, to build connections and to understand.
Our success, for me, is measured by ourselves. By the families that comfort one another online. By the friends who live far away and each day visit Homicide Watch to see if there is news about a case. I measure it in the suspects’ families, unable to talk about what they’re experiencing with their neighbors and friends, turning to the Homicide Watch community where others understand. By the teachers, co-workers, neighbors who stay in touch with one another, a network of memory. By the courtroom clerks, defense attorneys, prosecutors, detectives, US marshals, victim and witness advocates, judges and all others.
I measure our success by our caring. And the truth is that you, the community, have shown on Homicide Watch that we do care.
This is my fifth Year in Review column, and I’ve made a tradition each year of reflecting on the lives we’ve lost, to violent death or to prison. Inevitably, this year, my reflections this year turn to what we are losing as Homicide Watch DC closes. Here’s what I hope:
That you will not lose your access to the criminal justice system. The courts serve the people and are open to the public. Learn how to access court records and attend hearings. Know where to find news releases from MPD. Share what you learn from these visits to help others better understand the process.
That you will not lose the power of storytelling. It’s from sharing our experiences that we understand one another. Write posts on Facebook or Twitter. Make videos for YouTube. Launch a WordPress site. Do not underestimate the significance of your unique perspective.
That you will not lose one another. Connect on the Homicide Watch Facebook page. Continue to support one another with your comments and “likes.” If you can, go to court. Be present and public together.
To all of you who have joined us and shared with us, thank you.