Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Waiting for justice for Bailey O'Neill

I like to delude myself that I have some idea of the kind of agony the family of Bailey O’Neill is enduring right now.

The truth is I don’t have a clue.

And I hope to God I never do.

There is nothing we do in this business that is worse than covering the unexpected death of a child. Bailey O’Neill was 12 years old. That’s right - 12. His birthday was Saturday. That’s the day his family had to make the decision to take him off life-support.

O’Neill, of course, has been at the center of headlines in the maelstrom that has followed the schoolyard altercation that many believe led to his death.

What we know is that on Jan. 10, Bailey was involved in some kind of incident in the schoolyard of Darby Township Elementary School. Most people seem to agree that two other youths confronted Bailey, and a punch was thrown.

Some people insist Bailey was sucker-punched. His family believes this was the culmination of a pattern of bullying that Bailey had endured.

A lot of people have voiced their opinions about this case. They have called me, sent emails, and of course posted comments on the stories that have appeared on our website, DelcoTimes.com.

Most seem to think the paper is dragging its feet in terms of the investigation. They’re not sure what still needs to be investigated. They’ve already made up their minds.

“This is not a bullying case, it’s a felony assault/murder,” one person emailed me. That might come as news to the District Attorney. Yesterday, Jack Whelan told us that they are still awaiting the medical results to determine a cause of death and a possible link between the schoolyard incident and Bailey’s death. You can read our most current story here.

It also bothers people that we have not named Bailey’s attacker. There’s a simple reason for that. No one has been charged with anything yet. And even if the young man is charged, it’s unlikely we would use his name unless he’s charged as an adult.

“The media is protecting the wrong people,” the emailer told me.

We’re not protecting anyone. We mourn the loss of an innocent 12-year-old. And we wait for the wheels of justice to churn. Do they churn slowly? Almost always. And that’s almost always preferable to the rush to judgment so many are ready to conclude in this case.

Whelan yesterday said it is likely that charges will be filed in the case. Just what those charges are remains to be seen.

As usual, the waiting is the hard part. But it's nothing compared to that the family of Bailey O'Neill is going through. I'll try to keep that in mind as we wait, and wonder why something like this happens to a 12-year-old kid.

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