Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2000 / 25 Tishrei 5761
The boy's killer: 'I've served my time,
and I'm out'
COLUMBUS, Ohio | Neither Tracy Lynn
Bratton, one of the killers of 3-year-old P.J.
Bourgeois, nor Franklin County Common Pleas
Court Judge Nodine Miller, who ordered
Bratton released from prison early, wants to talk
about the details of the case.
The reluctance of both women is understandable. Judge Miller prefers to
allow her written decisions about Bratton and the other killer -- Patrick
Bourgeois, P.J.'s father, whom Judge Miller also ordered released from
prison early -- to speak for themselves. Many judges, with good reason, take
this position on discussing cases over which they have presided.
Tracy Bratton -- who is back in Lewistown, Pa., after being released by
Judge Miller -- told us: "I really don't have anything to say. I've served my
time, and I'm out."
Indeed she is. The time she served -- three years and two months -- is far
short of the 7-to-25-year sentence she received for pleading guilty to a
charge of involuntary manslaughter, and even further short of the life in prison
she could have received had she been charged with and convicted of the
murder of the boy she helped to kill. But Franklin County prosecutors
allowed her to plead to the involuntary manslaughter count, and did not
object when Judge Miller granted her "supershock probation."
Because one of the reasons Judge Miller gave for releasing Bratton from
prison early was so Bratton could go to Pennsylvania to care for two children
of her own, we wanted to speak with Bratton about the details of the crime.
P.J. Bourgeois had been beaten, bitten, dragged by his ears, tied up and left
to choke to death on his own blood. In light of Bratton's desire to leave
prison and take care of other children -- a desire fulfilled by Judge Miller's
order -- we sought to speak with her about what she did to P.J.
"My judge knows what happened," Bratton told us, in saying she did not
want to discuss it further. "Judge Miller knows."
As for Judge Miller, she told us that she could not discuss the facts of the
case itself, but that "I have the reputation for being a fair and responsible
judge. For a person in a courtroom, that is the person's only time in front of a
judge. I try to be reasonable and fair with everyone who comes in front of
In this case, the problem would not seem to be whether the judge was
"reasonable and fair" with the people in front of her -- certainly those people,
Bourgeois and Bratton, have reason to be overjoyed by the sympathy and
understanding they received from Judge Miller.
The problem was Judge Miller's attitude toward the person who was not in
front of her -- the person she could not see, the person who could not ask
her for mercy the way the killers could ask her: P.J. Bourgeois, whose cries
for mercy went unanswered by Bourgeois and Bratton.
One of the factors Judge Miller cited in releasing Bratton and Bourgeois early
was their willingness to accept responsibility for what they had done. But in
fact, in public comments after they were released from prison, the killers
pointed fingers at each other, each saying that the other was the aggressor in
the killing of that 3-year-old, 34-pound child.
"I'll tell you this," Tracy Bratton said, in the only specific comment she made
to us about the killing. "I'm not the one who hit [P.J] on the top of his head."
When asked about her role in binding the child's legs together, and tying his
wrists tightly behind his back on the night he was left alone to choke to death
while bleeding from his beating, Bratton told us:
"I don't want to say any more. I want to move on with my life. I want to move
An understandable desire -- but if ever we are going to be able to stop these
kinds of crimes against the most helpless and voiceless victims, we must
spend the time to try to understand what was really done to the people who
can't move on with their lives, the people who can't move forward: the
children who, like P.J., are not given the opportunity to stand before a judge
and ask that their punishment be stopped.
Tomorrow, a jarring development in this case: how, after the release of
Tracy Bratton, the prosecutors never even filed a response to Patrick
Bourgeois' motion asking Judge Miller to free him from prison early.
Bourgeois' request went uncontested because the prosecutors lost it and now
say they didn't know it was
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
10/23/00: Blaming the boy for bringing on his own killing
10/20/00: The child's killer is released -- to care for other children
10/19/00: Words that the judge would not allow to be spoken
10/18/00: A courthouse game in which the boy was not included
10/17/00: The killers get 7 to 25 years ... with a wink
10/13/00: While the killers maneuver, the boy goes unburied
10/13/00: The killers demand a concession -- and they get it
10/12/00: The prosecutors decide it doesn't qualify as murder
10/11/00: 'He wouldn't eat his eggs, and we put him to bed'
10/10/00: The autopsy leaves no questions: 'It was a homicide'
10/06/00: 'Had they shot him in the head, he would have suffered less'
10/05/00: 'I remember the moment that I first saw the human bite marks'
10/04/00: They killed a 3-year-old boy -- and they are free
09/29/00: This just in, sort of: How the news can make you calm
09/27/00: Like being with old
friends in places you
09/21/00: If the Olympics banished television . . .
09/19/00: As summer ends, have the executives learned any lessons?
09/14/00: The new stardom that doesn't require paying any dues
09/12/00: Leave a light on for us children of the pioneers
09/09/00: River banks? How to turn water into an endless cash flow
09/06/00:Oh, give me a home, where the megabytes roam . . .
09/01/00: If this works, it can literally change young lives
08/30/00: From inside all those screen porches, one more cheer
08/24/00: Who will make your life better by August of 2004?
08/24/00: Four men running -- Why do we have to throw out two?
08/16/00:The certain way to measure the Lieberman factor
08/10/00: Can a library be a library without books?
08/08/00: Can't they spare eight nights every four years?
08/04/00: Cheney, Abe Lincoln and Ricky Martin -- do they add up?
08/02/00: Convention aside, you might want to tune in
07/27/00: How to make a killing
07/25/00: 'If we didn't do it, no one else would'
07/24/00: The executioners who walk among us
07/20/00: On Main Street, signs of the times tell two stories
07/18/00: Have the choices changed, or have we?
07/14/00: Gable, Hepburn, Zanuck--you wouldn't find them at HOJO's
07/13/00: The Great Lie about political conventions
07/06/00: If this is victory, what would defeat feel like?
06/29/00: A bright moon and a missing person on Orange Ave.
06/26/00: They're not singing our song
06/22/00: The name game
06/07/00: It's like knocking on a revolving door
06/06/00: Steven who? A close encounter of mistaken identity
06/02/00: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
05/31/00: The best laughter, the truest voices, will never fade
05/25/00: Of distant visions, close views, and Bobby Knight
05/24/00: 'The luckiest thing that ever happened to me'
05/23/00: 'It's funny how you remember the little things'
05/22/00: 'The whisper of a generation saying goodbye to its children'
05/19/00: The place to find life is not a keyboard
05/18/00: A problem of suds but no duds
05/17/00: Are those lazy, hazy dot-com days fading?
05/16/00: The truest things in life require not a single word
05/15/00: 'Evidently he didn't like the way she dusted the house'
05/12/00: Why news executives are hoping this 'woman' is a hit
05/11/00: Ted Koppel, Hitler, Mellencamp . . . and words of love
05/10/00: Maybe it's time for the right people to hear our cheers
05/09/00: The lesson that they always learn late
05/05/00: 'Excuse me, but there seems to be something in my water'
05/05/00: When your first dream turns out to be your best dream
05/04/00: Even baseball couldn't make light of this superstition
05/03/00: The ringmaster who looks back from your mirror
05/02/00: There they go, just a-yappin' down the street . . .
05/01/00: You must remember this (Unless you don't)
04/24/00: Now that casino ads are allowed to tell the truth . . .
04/13/00: The man in the seat across the airplane aisle
04/11/00: A star is born, but do you know where it's @?
04/06/00: Through the eyes of Norman Rockwell
03/21/00: 10 good reasons to avoid making this list
03/21/00: 'I tell myself that they've gone on vacation'
03/21/00: Monday Night Football memories
03/02/00: This report card deserves an 'A' in every subject
02/29/00: What really happened on New Year's eve
02/23/00: Of paste pots, Denver sandwiches and finding Dr. Sam
02/17/00: What would you like to stay exactly the same?
02/04/00: Politics: When did the stagehands step onto the stage?
02/01/00: An awesome idea to make you sound better
01/26/00: Y3K already? We haven't yet recovered from Y2K
01/21/00: Watching the pot that always boils
01/19/00:The story behind the men on the museum steps
01/13/00: Here's to the students who never hear a cheer
01/11/00: The oh-so-sweet sound of modems in the morning
01/04/00: The person in your mirror just got wiser
12/31/99: A lesson -- and a memory -- to last a millennium
12/29/99: Racing the clock, even when it's running backwards
12/13/99: The right to bear coffee
12/08/99: From teen idol to ink-stained wretch: Can you Dig it?
12/02/99: Human 'search engines'
11/30/99: Here's looking at you -- now hand over the cash
11/23/99: Who'll say 'I'm sorry' to the other Decatur students?
11/18/99: "From bad things, good can come"
11/16/99: The man who didn't know the meaning of 'whatever'
11/12/99: Is this progress? We have made the weekend obsolete
11/09/99: Today he would probably be called Kyle Kramden
11/04/99: And you thought the IRS was heartless
11/02/99: When it's free, what will the real price be?
10/29/99: The tissue-thin decisions that define who we are
10/26/99: One way to cut road rage down to size
10/22/99: Asking all the right questions takes a special pitch
10/18/99: The signs are talking to you; Are you listening?
10/12/99: Even Capone would be disgusted
10/08/99: Don't ever look your neighborhood bear in the eye
10/06/99: Land of the free and marketplace of the brave
10/04/99: German warplanes in
09/30/99: While you fret, something is sneaking up on you
09/28/99: In these busy times, why not bring back a certain buzz?
09/24/99: The storms whose paths no one can track
09/21/99: Who's minding the store? Oh . . . never mind
09/17/99:Here's another place where you can't smoke
09/14/99: As certainly as `lovely Rita' follows `when I'm 64' . . .
09/09/99: Why is patience no longer a virtue?
09/07/99: Once upon a time, in an airport close to you . . .
09/03/99: The answers? They are right in front of us
09/01/99: Up the creek with a paddle--and cussing up a storm
08/30/99: $1 Million Question: How'd we get to be so stup-d?
08/27/99: Fun and games at Camp Umbilical Cord
08/25/99: How life has been changed by the woodpecker effect
08/23/99: If you don't like this story, blame the robot who wrote it
08/20/99: A four-letter word that has helped both Bob and Rhonda
08/18/99: They have picked the wrong country
08/16/99: From paperboy to stalker--how the news has changed
08/12/99: Why wasn't anyone watching his brothers?
08/10/99: Come to think of it, stars seldom are the retiring type
08/05/99: The national gaper's block is always jammed
07/29/99: 'Can you imagine the gift you gave me?'
07/27/99: A view to a kill -- but is this really necessary?
07/23/99: Some cream and sugar with your turbulence?
07/21/99: When your name is JFK jr., how do you choose to use it?
07/19/99: The real world is declared not real enough
07/15/99: The real victims of cruel and unusual punishment
07/13/99: A 21st Century idea for schools: log off and learn
07/09/99: Are life's sweetest mysteries still around the bend?
07/07/99: Of great minds, cream cheese and Freddy Cannon
07/02/99: The perfect spokesman for the American way
06/30/99: 'He's 9 years old . . . he trusts people'
06/28/99: A $581 million jackpot in the courthouse casino
06/25/99: A nighttime walk to a House that feels like a cage
06/23/99: At least give men credit for being more morose
06/18/99: On Father's Day, a few words about mothers
06/16/99: If work is a dance, how's
your partner doing?
06/14/99: Should a dictionary ever tell you to keep quiet?
06/10/99: A story of Sex, the SuperBowl and your wife
06/07/99: Take a guess where "California Sun" is from
06/03/99: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
06/01/99: Putting your money where their mouths are
05/27/99: Pressed between wooden covers, the summer of her life
05/25/99:The lingering song of a certain summer
05/24/99:We could all use a return to the Buddy system
05/20/99: Now, this is enough to make James Bond double-0 depressed
05/17/99: It's midnight -- do you know where your parents are?
05/13/99: And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem
05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door
©1999, Tribune Media Services