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Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 2000 / 27 Tishrei 5761

Bob Greene

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Consumer Reports


`I'm not going to go up there and yell and scream'


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- COLUMBUS, Ohio | With Franklin County prosecutors having misplaced the motion by Patrick Bourgeois asking that he be released from the prison sentence he was serving for torturing and killing his 3-year-old son, the motion went before Judge Nodine Miller unopposed.

Judge Miller -- the Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge who had already released the other killer, Tracy Lynn Bratton, Patrick Bourgeois' girlfriend -- had several options available to her.

She could have informed the prosecutors that for some reason they had failed to file any response at all to the motion asking that Bourgeois be released early from prison.

This is an option that Franklin County Prosecuting Atty. Ron O'Brien, and his first assistant in the criminal division, Ed Morgan, have pointed out to us. O'Brien and Morgan have told us it is not uncommon for a judge to remind prosecutors that they have failed to respond to a motion -- and to give them the opportunity to do so.

Judge Miller told us that the prosecutors are just making excuses after the fact. She correctly points out that they had months to tell her whether they objected to Bourgeois being released -- and they didn't do it.

(The prosecutors indicate now that Bourgeois' motion to get out was most likely lost in their office. Morgan, who was in charge of the case, said he might have been on vacation when Bourgeois' motion arrived at the prosecutor's office.)

Judge Miller had another option, of course -- she could have simply turned down Bourgeois' request for supershock probation.

After all, the judge was aware of what Bourgeois and Bratton had done to 3-year-old P.J. Bourgeois -- how they had beaten him, bitten deeply into his flesh, dragged him around by his ears, bound his legs and tied his wrists behind his back, and left him alone to choke to death on his own blood. She was aware the prosecutors had charged Bratton and Bourgeois with the relatively light offense of involuntary manslaughter -- allowing the two to escape murder charges that could have put them in prison for life.

The judge had sent them to prison for 7 to 25 years -- and neither Bratton nor Bourgeois had even served enough time to appear before a parole board. But they had asked Judge Miller to let them out on her own authority, under the portion of the law known as supershock probation.

She could have said no -- she could have said that, because of the nature of the crime and the helplessness of the victim, early release from prison was not appropriate.

Judge Miller couldn't claim to be unaware of just what Bourgeois and Bratton had done to the child. As a matter of fact, after she had sent them to prison, she had met at Children's Hospital with medical workers who were upset by what they considered the light punishment the killers had received -- and by the possibility they would eventually be released early.

One of the doctors who was at the meeting -- Dr. Brian Seifferth, who was working at Children's Hospital at the time -- told us: "My impression was that [Judge Miller] didn't understand our point. I felt that she just didn't get it.

"I was explaining to her the process of the autopsy. That the cause of death just could not be accidental.

"I explained to her that what was found in the autopsy was intentional, significant injuries. My analogy is that if you were to hit an adult with a baseball bat -- if you were to attack an adult in that way -- you would get the same kind of physical results that were found in that child's body. That's the kind of force it takes, to do what was done to him.

"I knew as I was telling this to her that she was going to let [the killers] out. I could just tell by her response -- or, more to the point, her lack of response. There was no question in my mind -- they were going to be released from prison."

Dr. Seifferth turned out to be correct. On Sunday we will report what Judge Miller said in releasing Patrick Bourgeois -- and what Bourgeois' attorney told us his client's response was.

For now, though -- now that all these facts are available to everyone involved in the case -- what can be done?

"Nothing," assistant prosecutor Morgan told us.

No recourse at all?

"I'm not going to go up there [to Judge Miller's courtroom] and yell and scream," Morgan said.

"You have to understand -- I've got other cases before the judge."



JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

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