Among an angry family in court

If there’s one place a TV reporter should NOT be, it’s sitting in court among angry family members of a convicted child killer.

They are deeply upset and are looking to channel their anger at someone or something.

A reporter like myself is an easy target.

I knew sitting among the Keith Ruiz family was probably not a good idea, even though this was my first time covering this case.

I should have picked my seat earlier.  There was no other place to sit.   Lesson learned.

Ruiz already pleaded guilty and admitted to body-slamming his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter because she wouldn’t stop crying.   She later died as a result of head injuries.

Towards the end of a heavy, emotional hearing, an unidentified Ruiz family member turned towards me and told me “not to paint him as a monster like everyone else does.”

Of course, when I offered this man an on camera interview to defend Ruiz, he declined and shook his head at such a revolting offer.

I heard the rest of the family sigh in disgust as if I’m the one responsible for their loved one’s character and credibility.

I told them they could be angry at me and that’s fine, but I was willing to share their side of the story.

A family member then turned to one of deputies and said I was “stirring people up.”

I was in the middle of a hornets nest, I sensed trouble and I got up quickly and I left my seat.

A really cool deputy saw and heard the predicament I was in.

She went out of her way to find me a seat next to the prosecution.

Ruiz was given a 36 year sentence, four years below the maximum under the stipulated plea agreement.

His family left.   I didn’t bother approaching them, knowing things could have turned bad.

I wrote my report, while trying to be fair as possible.

Looking back, I still debate with myself if I should have even engaged the family.

But it’s my job to offer them their say, even if some of them would like to punch me in the face.

I walked out of court making sure I was aware of my surroundings, leaving behind another case, another convict and another short life remembered in court.

The little girl who was killed didn’t have a voice.

And that’s the real shame.

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3 thoughts on “Among an angry family in court

  1. Michelle

    The rage part of me wants to say this family has no say in how their family member is portrayed. He gave up that right when he killed that child. The logical side of me realizes that he is someone’s child, brother, uncle. He probably never thought he could commit this type of crime either.

    That being said, you gave them an opportunity to speak about him and the refused. They need to accept that he will now always be seen as a monster and terrible person because he murdered a child, a child that could not defend herself against such harm, a child that was looking at him to protect her not harm her. Unfortunately his actions will portray him in that monstrous light forever, and his family will need to come to terms with that.

    I’m so glad you managed to get out without injury. I commend you because sometimes I cannot be fair, I cannot be unbiased. Sometimes I just want to yell the truth I believe out. Probably a good thing I’m not going into journalism. You’re a good reporter. *fistbump*

  2. Kyle Hartsock (@KyleHartsock)

    Just know even in that family the majority are ashamed of their relative and truly have no discontent for you. It’s the loud 20 percent. I have found it best after cases to let the families of suspects reach out to me and not engage in much conversation as there have been literally been dozens of family meetings and hours of conversations, and anyone not on the suspects side is an enemy. Oh well. My job is done, and so was yours.


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