This is Jacque’s story, one of horror. Three men entered a courtroom in Atlanta on an armed robbery and shooting case. Three walked out with emphasis on the word walked. The other was wheeled out facing a life sentence without parole.
Jacque Steptoe is 40 years old and even before the trial he knows his sentence - Life without the possibility of parole! The words did not have to be uttered by a jury or judge. The image spoke for itself.
How can that be, you may ask? How could he know the outcome of the trial before it even started? From all appearances Jacque is a burly man who looks like a linebacker for the Ravens. But then your eyes focus on his chair, the one like he is confined too for the rest of his life. You look at the skin of his feet torn up by dragging them on the floor because of no foot rests on the wheelchair failed to keep them off the ground. He could feel no pain.
This is a story of not only Jacque but of the injustices met out every day in our courtrooms by issues that a reasonable person might find ludicrous. Our criminal justice system is defined by a statue that is blind.
It’s bad enough to be victimized by robbers and shot, yet another by the system that is supposed to dispense out justice to the guilty but fails over an issue that defies imagination.
Yes, I said robbers because Jacque Steptoe was chased down by two robbers and shot three times in the back and had his spine severed. The other waited in a getaway car. He survived by playing dead and the robbers took his four bucks. That was the change he received from his five dollar bill for the beer he bought after working all day. Jacque worked all his life and at the time he was married. You work all your life and it comes down to one dollar.
Jacque believed in hard work and spent his life trying to achieve the American dream and instead what he got was a life sentence at the hands of people who had no regard for life and worse off they are still walking the streets a free and healthy men.
Here is the way Jacque said it went down. Jacque had worked all day and wanted a beer and took a five dollar bill down to a liquor store in a bad part of town. When he arrived there were three men, one whom he recognized as a trouble maker. Jacque bought his dollar beer took his four dollars and left with a bad feeling. He was right. When Jacque knew the time had come to react he took off after he heard one say “give it up.” The four started to come after him when the shots rang out. Jacque fell by a grave stone near a church and played dead. He had three bullet holes in him, one that severed his spine.
The robbers left with four dollars while Jacque lay fighting for his life, a life that not only change but would be tortured as well.
Jacque remembers waking up in the hospital seven hours later, clinging to life. The scares in Jacque’s chest and stomach are surgeries required to remove and repair the damage done by the three shots that struck him. He has to wear a bag for the rest of his life. There is still metal left in his body, so much so he can’t have a MIR.
From there it was a slow seven months of an agonizing series of operations and emotional upheaval, whether to go on living or not and finally a renewed inspiration for life caused by one man at a place that a one of our former great presidents FDR rehabbed. For Jacque the history of the center and one special therapist was enough to spur him forward fighting to live.arm
Jacque came to Baltimore for follow-up treatment and despite the fact he was in a wheelchair, heavily medicated, he was summoned back to Atlanta to testify at the criminal trial of the defendants. The sad part is the court was aware of Jacque’s condition but decided to proceed with the case.
The hardship on Jacque was unimaginable. Trying to fly back to Atlanta, disrupting his treatment, confined to a wheelchair and under medication, he managed to accomplish it. He got back to Atlanta for the trial.
Jacque identified the shooter and all three admitted they were there. The defense claimed none of their clients had weapons and Jacque’s testimony could not be trusted because of the medication he was on.
The verdict – not guilty! I guess the jury thought even though all three admitted they were there, Jacque shot himself.
Jacque’s spends his days at Manor Care in a space not much larger than a prison cell. The care is another subject. He kept an eye on my Mom before she died, also another subject that will be told.
He lost his marriage but said, he will fight for a better life by giving to others in motivational talks. Jacques hopes to live, the best he can, a normal life with his paralyzed legs continuing to spasm causing severe pain.
He would like to find an apartment that could accommodate his special needs and give him a chance at a life.
One thing for sure Jacque is a fighter.