“A 22-year-old man on Friday was sentenced to life without parole for killing his brothel boss in December 2010,” reads the lead sentence of the story from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
They are writing about my friend Keon Park who pleaded guilty in May to first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery and other charges for killing Young Park and burning her body. The two are not related.
It seems so cut and dry – the way the sentence reads — matter of fact and without emotion, exactly like a good news story should begin. But since I was present in the courtroom and was one of several people who for Keon, it is so much more emotional for me.
Here’s what I had to say:
“Thank you Your Honor for allowing me the opportunity to speak before this court on behalf of Keon Park. I have known Keon since 2006.
While I was his cross-country coach at Excel Christian High School in the Reno/Sparks area in 2007, I met Keon earlier through my son, who attended the same school. He was welcomed and came to our home on several occasions.
As with most young men his age, Keon was interested in girls, money and especially cars — and we spent a lot of time talking about these three subjects as well as his home life, which left him unhappy. While he looked up to both his father and his uncle, he left me with the impression that he was under a terrible strain to be perfect.
This internal void placed Keon, in my opinion, at a point where he was more willing to follow than to lead. As his coach and later friend, I learned that Keon would do what was asked of him without question.
His ability to obey structured rules and direction was without question and he exhibited this feature on both the race course and in his personal life. Keon is also very intelligent, wise beyond his years in most cases and he knows and is known to our Lord, Jesus Christ.
When I heard Keon had been arrested for murder, aside from being heart-sick, I knew he had been lead into it. Furthermore, I knew it was in Keon’s nature to take responsibility for his actions no matter the outcome.
Keon has never been in trouble with the law until now. And knowing Keon as I have, he’ll take whatever punishment this court justly metes out — I just ask that you spare him from life without parole, allowing Keon to have a chance at becoming a productive citizen at some point in his future.
Again, thank you, Your Honor.”
When Judge Gonzalez handed down Keon’s sentence, everyone, including his defense team felt kicked in the gut. I’m not calling the judge’s decision into question – I’m jus’ saying I had never fully grasped what could happen until that very moment.
At present, my mind is a terrible tangle over what judgment is, what justice is and what mercy is. For now I’ll simply stay thankful that it was not death the judge imposed on Keon.