Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Little bitty boy – with a heart of steel

Hey, pockyway  –  Hey, pockyway...

Waco – Let's call him Ahab – not his real name, but, hey, his identity is supposed to be kept confidential - because he's a child.

And Ahab is a child. Let's make no mistake about that.

Until you actually see him, watch him bounce up in the witness stand and strain to reach the goose-necked condenser mike pointed nearly straight down, the full impact of his stature does not really make an impression.

As he testified against his father about an offense that could net him a possible life sentence for aggravated endangering a child, a frightening picture of a wretched Mother's Day weekend in May, 2011 unfolded like some evil monster – there to slowly crush a child's care free life.

The call and response of the prosecutor's questions and Ahab's simple answers – some so low you could barely make out his “Yes,” or “I don't know” response – began to get to everyone in earshot. Jurors could not hide their disgust with the trim, bearded and bespectacled man sitting at the defendant's table dressed in a neatly pressed oxford cloth business shirt.

More than one person's eyes revealed the glistening glaze of stinging tears, the kind you would like to hide, but can't.

At critical junctures in the questioning, Ahab cut his eyes rapidly toward his father, their sudden swivel in his little face flickering and furtive, before he answered.

A sample:

Did your dad take you to the doctor?”


What did your hand look like?”

Kind of purple...”

Your dad told you to tell people that other kids beat you up.”


You didn't like living with your dad and Clorice?”

Ahab said he didn't know.

You told someone you didn't like living with your dad because they made you do chores...”


Let's get back to Thursday afternoon, the day the nightmare began for Ahab.

His stepmother, Clorice, found a greasy bowl in the dishes Ahab and his little brothers and sisters had been assigned to wash.

A witness later testified that it was Clorice who would inspect Ahab's work around the house. At the time, he was 9. Now he's 10. Clorice held two jobs at the time. She was hard to satisfy, according to the testimony of the man who lived with them.

When his father, Ronald Wayne Jackson, got home from work at an area Burger King, he took all the dishes out of the cabinets and made Ahab wash them. All of them.

He made him do pushups and sit-ups, run wind sprints in the yard, and when he found he wasn't satisfied with this form of discipline, he got out a board and beat him with it.

The kid said it's got tape on one end of it, that it's a two by four, and that his dad broke it on his foot.

That's when he got out the golf club and went back to work on him.

He lashed him with a belt.

A forensic social worker and a Child Protective Services testified that the little boy's body was covered with bruises, chunks of his skin approximately two inches by four inches had been ripped from his buttocks, and his foot and hand were fractured and bleeding.

Their impression of his overall affect - “...very flat, totally shaken...”

Ahab didn't go to school Friday. He stayed home and cleaned up the yard. He stacked bricks. He picked up trash. His dad told people that some kids in the neighborhood jumped him and beat him up. When a man who lived with the family returned that afternoon, he asked him to take the kids to the park.

Ahab had trouble getting ready to go. The man said he found him half on and half off his bed, on his stomach, unable to pull on his shoes because his foot was swollen and bleeding. He helped him get dressed. Ahab stayed in the car while the other kids played. At the Burger King, he vomited after downing about half his soft drink.

He didn't go to school in LaVega on Monday, either. When he arrived on Tuesday, the teacher sent him to the nurse. He was limping. The school's guidance counselor took him to a hospital.

His treatment, according to Ahab: “They wrapped something around my hand.”

It still hurts when he bends his fingers back, he said.

It wasn't the first time it had happened.

When social workers arrived at the house in September of 2010, they found the kid beaten so severely, they had EMS workers take him to the emergency room by ambulance; he stayed there all night.

When the jurors – a multi-ethnic mix of 9 men and 3 women - would file in or out of the room, they kept their eyes averted. They didn't look at Ahab's dad. They looked at the floor. They pretended to take notes on the big yellow legal pads the court furnished them. As they listened, some drilled the accused child beater with looks of disgust. Others stared into space, nonplussed.

District Judge Matt Johnson felt the trial was at a stopping place. He called a recess a few minutes after 4 p.m. Everyone but the attorneys and the judge fled into the wilting heat of a blazing afternoon. A few witnesses remain to be questioned today.

If convicted, the couple could face ultimate sentences of life in prison, not less that 5 or more than 99 years, and a fine of $10,000.

Ronald's offense is beating the boy with deadly weapons; Clorice's alleged crime is standing by and doing nothing.

Ahab doesn't live with his dad any more. He now lives with his “auntie.”

He still limps, slightly, when his weight comes down on his right foot. As he left the courthouse rotunda following his testimony, accompanied by a victim's assistance coordinator and his kin and almost skipping on his way to the elevator, he was smiling, looking forward to the rest of his day.

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