Jimi gets 61 years

 

Olujimi “Jimi” Blakeney, 26, last week received the maximum sentence of sixty-one years and five months for his drive-by shooting in July 2010 that killed Lisa Melancon.

I had not heard that Jimi had killed anyone until I read about his conviction last July in The News Tribune, and so I was scrambling to learn the facts of the case when I attended his sentencing hearing on August 3.

In the process I also learned more about Jimi, a young man I had counseled ten years ago in a residential facility for foster kids administered by the Gateways for Youth and Families of Tacoma, and I was surprised by what I discovered.

First, I found out that Jimi has a father.  When I was Jimi’s therapist, I didn’t think that he had any family.  I had heard from the other residents that Jimi had an older brother in prison, and the therapist who had worked with Jimi before me indicated that he was an abandoned child that DSHS had been working with since he was 10 years old.  Jimi himself told me about an “auntie” that he had lived with for a short period of time, and he was certainly fond of her.

Nevertheless, during the early stages of the hearing a middle-aged man was escorted out of the visitors’ area.  He was loud and provocative, perhaps drunk, and clearly not a happy observer.  Later, Ms. Melancon’s family and a couple of cops told me the guy was Jimi’s father.

 Jimi has a father?  Where was he when Jimi was in foster care?

 The father was accompanied by a woman of indeterminate age, maybe 30, and the same folks told me that she was Jimi’s sister.

Wow, Jimi has family!

The surprise was too large for me to ponder sitting in the courtroom, but now I wonder:

How could they let their kid sit in a foster home and cost the county 70 grand a year? How does that happen?

 But back in the courtroom I was trying to absorb all the dynamics: who was the victim’s family, how can I get a good picture of Jimi, do I need a media clearance from the cops?

My education had started at the elevators in the City-County Building where the hearing took place.

Standing in a circle were about six women looking stern, and wearing matching “T” shirts that said “Lisa Marie Melancon – Forever in our Hearts:  8/15/69– 7/22/10.”

I walked up to them and was rebuffed.  A tall, open-faced fellow was nearby and he was wearing an identical shirt.  I introduced my self.  He was Joe Melancon, husband of the deceased Lisa.

“I’m doing better,” he said, responding to my query of how he was coping.  “I’ve had counseling, but it’s still tough.  I’m getting through it, though, it’s been over a year.”

When I pressed to find out what had happened on his front porch when Jimi and a few buddies came by to settle a dispute, Joe’s demeanor shifted.

“I don’t want to discuss any of the details.  I’ve spent the last year going over all of that in court – that was enough.”

Joe Melancon, center, surrounded his friends and those of his deceased wife, Lisa

In chatting with the others, and then mingling with a second group of supports, I learned that Lisa was “a wonderful person” and had been married to Joe for eight years.  In addition, she had a son from a prior relationship.

I was also told that Melancon was pronounced: mel-ahn-Sahn; and later the deputy prosecuting attorney made a determined effort to enunciate the name properly.

Further, Lisa was clearly a beloved woman, and her loss to the family was devastating.  Joe called her a “substantive woman who cared about her community” and others later testified that she was the “glue” that held the family together.

Room 250 of Superior Court, where the sentencing was held, is a serious place.  The visitors are separated from the actual courtroom by a sound-proof, and presumably bullet-proof, glass wall.  Testimony is piped in via a PA system.  Visitors sit on hard wooden benches, much like the pews I remember from Catholic Church when I was growing up.

Three Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputies guarded the visitors and room 250.  Sgt Jesus Villahermosa recited a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts to us, and he was quite firm when he later removed Jimi’s father.

Jimi looked older than I expected when he was escorted into the courtroom by corrections officials.  His face was hard, and he looked thoroughly toughened by his seven months in confinement during his trial.  Prior, he had had a few years in prison for small, non-violent felonies. 

As he walked, I could see that he was wearing leg irons and wrist restraints. 

Jimi sat next to his attorney, Michael Clarke, who had earlier told me in a phone conversation that Jimi had been a pleasure to work with.  Clarke argued unsuccessfully for a reduction in charges do to the lack of any overtly violent crime in Jimi’s past.

I sensed the politics of the case were overwhelming.  Jimi was like a “throw away kid” who could be used for maximum advantage – the headlines were certain to make the county officials look good – and I wondered how the victim’s family would respond.

Would they want blood?  Would they call out for revenge?

They didn’t.  The family certainly wanted justice, but the exact nuance of what they wanted came out in statements to the court and in later commentaries.  In short, they required Jimi to get the maximum sentence, but weren’t mean-spirited.

Jimi was silent but vigilant during the entire one hour hearing.  He looked about the entire courtroom and eyed everyone and everything.  When our eyes met, which was often, I couldn’t hold his gaze and I don’t know why.  Maybe it was too much intimacy.

Regardless, when we did look at each other I saw Jimi’s hard edge melt away, and in his eyes I saw the kid I used to know.  He softened, and he almost looked scared.  He looked open, too.  Then, I looked away.

I like to think that he was appreciative that I was there.  I had written a letter to him just after his conviction, telling him I would be at his sentencing.  I also asked him to put me on his visitor’s list and to let me know when I could see him in prison.  To date, I haven’t heard back.

At the hearing, Lisa’s parents spoke, along with her brother Vinney. 

Kathy, the mom, evoked biblical passages and was tearful; and the father Manuel was grieving and although judgmental a times, he seemed to grasp the big picture of bureaucratic justice. 

Lisa Melancon's mother, Kathy, addressed Judge Tollefson at the sentencing hearing for Jimi Blakeney

Vinney, however, was business-like and pragmatic.  Not only did he address the judge on what he thought was a proper sentence, calling for a maximum penalty, but he also seemed to lecture Jimi on proper social behavior when one commits murder.

Vinney told the court that he expected Jimi to apologize, obliquely challenging Jimi to “do the right thing.”

But Vinney received only silence.  He told the court that if he had heard Jimi say at some point early in the case that he was sorry, then he would be advocating for a reduced sentence.  Without it though, he needed Jimi to receive the maximum sentence.

Such a declaration told me that Vinney had never dealt with anyone like Jimi before.  My guys never apologized for anything because apologies were like a surrender, a loss of power.  In the world my guys lived in, apologies did not make anyone feel closer, they actually de-stabilized relationships and made my guys feel diminished and more threatened. 

That’s the nature of fellows with “Reactive-Attachment Disorder.”  “RAD kids” is what we called them: children who can not emotionally bond with others.

At the residence, the staff pushed the kids all the time to make “good choices” and to take responsibility for their actions.  Intellectually they understood what we were talking about, but emotionally they could not deliver very often.

As a result, I tried to get everyone to agree to a policy of “acknowledgment” in resolving disputes.  It was somewhat successful.  The aggressor could still save some face, and the victim could receive some justice.

Lisa Melancon's brother, Vinney, spoke eloquently and at length to the media following the sentencing of sister's murderer.

Now, however, Jimi couldn’t give Vinney a thing.  Not a word – not an apology, an acknowledgment, or even a glimmer of recognition that he was involved any way, even if it meant he had to serve a lot more time in prison.  30, 40, 60 years in prison, what did it mean to Jimi?  Further, in Jimi’s eyes, what was fair?  What was just?

I have no idea.

However, Vinney was not blind to these psychological issues, and in a post-sentencing gathering with officials from the Prosecutor’s Office and the media, he articulated his frustration.

“They all say that they’re victims, caught up in the system and that they don’t have a chance.”

Regardless, the family was keenly aware of the imperfections of the system they were in – the judicial one – and applauded the prosecutory team at the close of the post-sentencing meeting.

“It’s the greatest amount of justice that can be gotten,” Lisa’s father told the assembled.

Lisa Melancon's father, Manuel.

©  2011  the Mountain News – WA

__________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________

Thomas K. Faubion  –  Attorney at Law

35 Years Experience

Volunteer Officer in Graham Fire and Rescue Department

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14 Responses to Jimi gets 61 years

  1. Pick n Pull Auto Dismantling. Salaries, reviews, and more – all posted by employees working..good article..

  2. jay says:

    lord knows it was an accident this man was young did’nt mean to hurt anyone if only he could turn back the hands of time i just ask you to forgive him please he is a decent man smart very caring understanding,wonderful mature man who understand what he did was wrong but not intentionally we all have made some type of mistake rather is low down are pitiful down right a shame we are still God’s Children who deserves a second chance please have mercy on this man’s life he too need a chance to do better we fall down but we get up he can teach the world of children to day that there is always something better no jugging we all have sin some kind of way may God Bless

  3. jay and olujimi says:

    Dear World.
    My name is Olujimi Blakeney and I am writing this in hopes of the word to truly get a better glance and understanding of the man you are reading about.
    Yes I am gulity of taking a innocent woman’s life.I took away a daughter,a sister a mother wife friend and a wonderful person from this world.And this was done by feckless actions of my immature choices of a young man fueled off alcohol and a unpredictable situation.
    The words I write can never replace my actions but these words are true genuine sincere.I now am fully aware of what it is that I did and despite it being a accident I did not take responsibility like a man should and i fled like a little boy,and that has merit to it inside the text.I never thought in my life time I would be sentenced to lifetime in prison let alone the one who took a person life away and when this harsh reality came to me I was afraid of what I did and only knew one thing and that was to run.
    So what I am trying to convey is I am responsible for what you read,but I am not a man with ill intentions at all.I am not a monster by any means,I am a human who made a terrible mistake and striving to teach the younger men in my presences the importance of being kind respectful learning forgiveness.
    I do know the impact my actions have left,so I ask you to try not to judge me off of what is written but by the unpredictable forces of life youth alcohol and a innocent person.I ask to be forgiven by the family friends husband and community affected by this,will forgiveness be granted?This is a unknown chapter but I am truly sorry for what I did and pray that when the time comes and you can find the compassion inside your heart to forgive me I will be waiting and embracing the forgiveness of everyone.
    In closing I want to express that I will be apologizing for the rest of my life for this.I will work hard everyday,every month and every year to redefine myself to become a better person and allow my mistake to propelle me into a positive individual who can teach and just be known for the worst thing I ever done in life..

    Sincerely,Olujimi Blakeney

    • brucesmith49 says:

      That’s a wonderful acknowledgement and apology, Olujimi. Congratulations on being able to make it.

      I suppose the next chapter of your story is being written – the element of forgiveness. You are clearly asking for it here, and I will endeavor to discover whether it is forthcoming. Have you been able to make contact with the family?

      At the very least, you have my forgiveness. You always had it, for I know the kind man you are at heart. The forgiveness I am working on are for the harsh attitudes of the folks who sought vengeance and revenge in your sentencing.

      • jay and olujimi says:

        Thanks so much @brucesmith49 yes Olujimi is doing well for the most part and is working on just getting his story out that he didn’t mean to hurt anyone it was a tragic lost,on both ends but he is working on himself and accepting full responsibility of his actions.I am his wife and his voice at this time speaking from the bottom of our hearts thanks for reading my husband growing words may God Bless

  4. jay and olujimi says:

    This Letter is one that must be written. Unforeseen never forgotten is what replays in my mind as well as my heart.
    I never would have imagined that our lives, our two different worlds would meet and create what was created.And for my actions I am sorry.

    What makes this letter so difficult to write is because your not here on this earth to read this or hear it,and this is all due to me.Yes your blood is on my hands and no matter how many times I wash them they will always remain covered with your blood.I never knew you and you never knew me.So if I may I want to introduce myself to you? My name is Olujimi Blakeney and I am the man who is solely responsible for taking your life.

    I am 33yrs old now and at the time of our unforeseen incident I was 25yrs old.I want to apologize truly and sincerely from the bottom of my heart.

    That terrible night my actions of firing a gun out a car window was completely immature,dumb,stupid and wrong.So wrong I took your life.
    A complete accident.

    I want to say that I pray every night to be forgiven for what I did.By you, your husband,your family,your friends and the community you and I both lived in.
    my heart is extremely heavy because of what I did.I am ashamed of my actions.To have a beautiful name but associated with this name is the title of a murderer. And I must say and express that I take full responsibility for this,yet I want you to know that I am a new man,changed man,a caring thoughtful and most of all a very apologetic man.

    What I did can never be undone, what I am saying may not do anything,but I want to say that I want to be better for you and myself.I will continuously strive for change in my life and forgiveness.
    I end with this. Lisa I am so so sorry for what I did,taking you away from so many people. And I will continue to say I am sorry for the rest of my life,its the least I can do.
    To Lisa,
    Olujimi Blakeney!

  5. brucesmith49 says:

    Thank you, Jay, for introducing yourself to us. I was wondering how Jimi could get access to a computer in prison. Then I read that the postings were from a “Jay and Olujimi.”

    I would love to chat with you and learn more about Jimi and his life, and yours. You up for that? Best way to get in touch is email: brucesmith@rainierconnect.com.

    Again, congratulations to Jimi and you for “manning-up” on this murder. How can we contact Jimi? Can we write him?

    In the meantime, please let him know that I don’t think of him exclusively as “Olujimi Blakeney, Murderer.” That is only one part of his identity, and it is clear to me that he is learning mightily from his past.

    • jay and olujimi says:

      Thank u so much,Yes u can contact him at Washington Corrections Center
      P.O Box 900 Shelton Wa,98584 inmate #854286

  6. Terence says:

    Growing up,
    In this world, we as people, fall short of Gods glory.But as humans, we make mistakes that hurts any and, all people.But we must understand, that everyone that makes mistakes, man or woman and who are strong enough to say im sorry for there actions, must have found peace in the world and themselves.

    • brucesmith49 says:

      I agree with you, Terence. Thanks for posting.

    • Terence says:

      Thanks brucesmith49. Never one to pull the race card, but black men and women is killed or murder,everyday by white people, or white police officer or whites who kills black people by accident cause they was afraid in there car or their pouches or cause he had a hoodie on (famous). Nothing matters when it comes to crimes that is black on black or white on black we all know that………

      • brucesmith49 says:

        Sad but mostly true, Terence. I trust that your words, these articles, and Olujimi’s apology bring a bit more humanity and relief to the tensions in the world.

  7. Pingback: Apology offered for a 2010 drive-by murder – from Jimi Blakeney to Lisa Melancon | The Mountain News – WA

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