Longform

DIE LIKE A MAN

Page 6 of 7

Frosty sat in the front row of her court, dazed from anxiety and fatigue. He half-rose when Becker and his mother entered the courtroom. Judge Hendrix ordered him removed, lest he cause a scene.

Becker pleaded for mercy on his behalf. The prosecuting attorney had been assigned to the case at the last minute. He confessed that he hadn't read the presentencing report, but said the County Attorney's Office would accept probation with a "significant" amount of time in jail--not in prison.

Judge Hendrix wasn't impressed with his plea for mercy.
"That's very charitable of you," she said to the prosecutor, "but maybe next time you should read the presentence report."
Judge Hendrix asked Frosty if he had anything to say.
"No, Ma'am," he murmured.

"Mr. Cruz, you are a very sad case and my heart goes out to you," the judge said. "It appears you haven't had much of a life. You haven't had very many good role models, but a lot of the state's resources have been available to you through the juvenile justice system, and they have a lot more resources for helping you than the adult criminal justice system.

"It seems a shame to send a person of your young and tender years to the Department of Corrections, but I cannot, in good conscience, place you on probation.

"Mr. Cruz, you can do anything you want to do in this life and be successful or you can continue being a criminal; the choice is yours. But Mr. Cruz, no one is going to like you unless you like yourself first. Please work on that. We all know there is a good person inside who is trying to get out. Work on that, please."
With that Judge Hendrix pronounced what turned out to be a death sentence.
She ignored the pleas for either jail time or probation lodged by Becker and Frosty's family and agreed to by the prosecutor. Instead, she accepted the recommendation of the probation officer.

Judge Cheryl Hendrix sentenced Henry Cruz to four years in prison. Later she told New Times that she had considered sentencing Henry to a short "shock incarceration" followed by intensive parole.

But Henry was too young for that program. The guards led Frosty away without letting him talk to his family.

"It doesn't do any good to have second thoughts," Judge Hendrix said later. "What can you say except it's an exceedingly bad and unfortunate situation? I can't turn back the clock."
@rule:
@body:Shortly after his return to the Madison Street Jail, Frosty told a guard he was afraid he might do something crazy, according to the jail's report of the incident.

The guard asked if he could wait until after dinner to talk to a nurse from the clinic.

Sure, Frosty said. After dinner the guard called the nurse and left a message.
After a while, the guard called again.
Finally, Frosty was escorted to the medical unit.
He was returned to his cell within 20 minutes.

The nurse later told police that Frosty told her he wouldn't hurt himself. She said he seemed cheerful when he left. She also said they talked for 45 minutes, which contradicts the jail log. Maybe Frosty had decided he was just a little Hispanic kid who was better off dead.

Or maybe he had decided he needed to do something dramatic to get the attention of his keepers so he could go to the hospital instead of to prison.

An inmate in a nearby cell said that Frosty said he was going to hang himself just before the guard returned for the next bed check. The other inmate tried to reason with him, but Frosty wouldn't answer. The guard found Frosty hanging, by a strip of torn bedding, from the light fixture at 9:13 p.m. on April 7, 1992. That was just an hour after the nurse had noted that he seemed cheerful.

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Peter Aleshire