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SIMMONS: Drawn-out justice in Sean Taylor’s death still stings

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As an NBA fan, it's difficult this time of year to await the NBA draft, which is this week, and not think about University of Maryland star Len Bias, who was taken by the Boston Celtics with the No. 2 pick in the 1986 June draft and was dead two days later. Sadly, Bias played a role in his own death by ingesting drugs.

That still hurts.

Yet, there's another sports tragedy that stings even more, and that is the killing of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor during a break-in at his Florida home and the fact that justice is moving agonizingly slow.

Colleague Nathan Fenno, a great reporter and wonderful storyteller, explains in Monday's editions of The Washington Times who and what helped to drag a murder case that began Nov. 27, 2007, when five suspects broke into Taylor's Miami home.

The entry of the story is told through the monotonous goings-on of murderer Venjah Hunte, with whom Mr. Fenno has been corresponding and who maintains a measure of human dignity in Miami's Metro West Detention Center by sticking to a daily routine that includes prayer.

Hunte agreed to a plea deal in 2008 and is serving a 29-year sentence, the only person connected with the killing who has had his day in court.

And, like the rest of us, Hunte waits.

From the outside, it seems as though the key players charged with meting out justice and the defendants are mocking the Sixth Amendment's "speedy trial" clause.

The judge issued a gag order in 2008, so who knows?

Curiously, one of the defendants — Eric Rivera, the suspected gunman — is writhing like a snake in the grass: Last year, he dropped his defense attorney and just this month filed a motion to represent himself, Mr. Fenno tells us.

The lawyer for another defendant got busted in a wire-fraud scheme.

The delays and motions leave us now waiting to see what will happen in August, when Mr. Rivera and the three others, all behind bars and all charged with first-degree murder, are scheduled for trials that, Mr. Fenno says, "have been relentlessly delayed since the first attempt in April 2008."

"Last year, for instance, a trial date of April 16 became Nov. 5, then April 5 of this year," he reports. "The latest try is set for August."

Mr. Fenno reminds us that it was nearly 5 ago that would-be burglars broke into Taylor's walled-off home at about 1:40 a.m. and mortally wounded him when a bullet cut his femoral artery.

Saying that Hunte has insisted he never ventured inside Taylor's home, Mr. Fenno then quotes Hunte as writing to The Times: "I wish I would've had better judgement of the people I surrounded myself with that night," and "I just wish [Taylor] hadn't passed away. It was an unfortunate situation, but there was no malice on my behalf."

Taylor's relatives, friends and Redskins Nation do, too.

Now we all wait, just like Hunte, for movement toward justice.

Not so much for closure, because some wounds, especially deep, old wounds, never fully heal.

America's judicial system is the best and fairest on this planet, but it's easy to understand why the defendants also don't want to rush a reckoning and run up against St. Peter.

Len Bias, for his part, seemingly was the opposite, anxious to face the possible.

It was not to be.

This sports fan stands with Pedro Taylor, Sean's dad, who is quoted by Mr. Fenno as having said not long ago, "There's never going to be any closure" and "I respect the fact that God makes no mistakes."

I suspect that because of the many twists and delays in their murder trials, the defendants in the death of Sean Taylor have had similar thoughts as well — especially with so much behind-bars time on their hands.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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