The following letter was published in the Sunday (9/5/10) edition of the Herald Palladium in St. Joseph, Michigan. This young man, Dakotah Eliason, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole by the same court that sentenced Efren to die in prison 21 years ago. Both youngsters were tried in Berrien County, as adults, with less than adequate defense, and a prosecutor who was determined to procure a verdict of first degree murder, even though they were only 14 & 15 at the times of the crimes. We should look to other countries for guidance, as we are one of the only countries who treat our youth so abominably.
Every once in a while this community is confronted by a tragedy so great it’s hard to get your mind around it. Such is the case with the trial and conviction of 14-year-old Dakotah Eliason for the murder of his stepgrandfather. A family has lost a father and grandfather, a father is going though pain beyond description, and a teenager has lost all his chance at a future with meaning and promise.
In an excellent article Aug. 20 in The Herald-Palladium, Debra Haight reported the reactions of nearly everyone feeling the full impact of this situation.
Briefly, the victim’s daughter said it was a senseless crime that has torn apart a family with no reason why. She said her “Dad was the kindest man you’d ever meet.”
Dakotah’s father said he “couldn’t understand why his son was tried as an adult.” There is disbelief and anguish in his words. “They just ran him through the wringer to prove a point. He’s a 14-year-old juvenile who will never have another chance to live free.”
The defense attorney felt he had presented a good case for second-degree murder, but the prosecutor said, “This was cold, willful, premeditated murder. A verdict of first degree murder ...would be the correct one given the facts of the case.”
Twelve jurors watched a video of Dakotah made right after he was arrested and found they agreed with the prosecutor. I don’t know what you, the readers, think, but if you have a 14-year-old son, or nephew, or grandson, or neighbor, I would suggest you take a good look at him before you decide. Personally, I don’t think this society should just give up on a person that young. There are too many other options if we have the will, the hope and the compassion to try.
And, yes, there is one other voice that hasn’t been heard.
One that was silenced forever, if we let it be. But maybe those closest to him, his family, his friends, can tell us what he would say if he could. What would Dakotah’s stepgrandfather, Jesse Miles (the victim of this senseless crime and the “kindest man you’d ever meet,”) – what would he say?
Charlotte Holton St. Joseph