Sometimes prosecutors and juries get it wrong. Fortunately, the judge presiding over the trial of Dharun Ravi got it right. Walking a very fine line in a case that fired passions on all sides, Judge Glenn Berman made the distinction “between behavior that society would call criminal versus behavior that society would call despicable,” as a friend of the judge was quoted saying in today’s New York Times.
In the court of public opinion—and even in the courtroom itself—it was clear from where I sat that Dharun Ravi was being tried for Tyler Clementi’s murder. His reprehensible actions were perceived by many as the cause, rather than the potential trigger, of Clementi’s suicide.
This was a tragic story from the start, but there was an opportunity to take a closer look at what happened and learn from it. Instead it turned into a blame game, with Tyler Clementi’s parents helping to lead the charge. I can certainly imagine why they would. Their son was dead and the person who likely triggered his decision to jump from the George Washington Bridge had to be held accountable.
It’s easy to scapegoat Dharun Ravi. He’s hardy a sympathetic character in this heartbreaking drama. But he’s only one player in a complex and still mysterious set of circumstances and events that led one college freshman to end his life. As in any suicide, those left behind, including Dharun Ravi, are sentenced to years of painful reflection as they try to understand what is so rarely understandable and struggle to figure out what role they may—or may not—have played.
Now it’s time for everyone to move on. Justice is done. Inelegantly, perhaps. Unfairly in the eyes of some. Fairly in the eyes of others. But I can only hope that Tyler Clementi’s too-short life will inspire his family, friends, and former roommate to help prevent other troubled young people from killing themselves.
About This Blog
Welcome to my blog, which grew out of my experience as a suicide survivor and my experience writing Why Suicide? (see below). On occasion I’ll be posting an essay based on something I’ve read, someone I’ve met, an experience I’ve had, or just a memory of someone in my life who took his or her life. If you have a thought on something I’ve written, I hope you won’t hesitate to join the conversation by leaving a comment.
About Eric Marcus
Eric Marcus is the author of several books, including Why Suicide?, Is It A Choice?, and Making Gay History. He is also co-author of Breaking the Surface, the #1 New York Times bestselling autobiography of Olympic diving champion Greg Louganis. And he currently serves on the national board of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (Photo Credit: Dixie Sheridan.)