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Story of Cain and Abel, Revisited
Mock Grand Jury Trial in D.C. Explores Motivation for Murder

By Hamil R. Harris
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 25, 2007

D.C. Superior Court Judge Zoe Bush recently presided over a unique hearing: Evidence was presented to determine whether to indict Cain for the killing of his brother Abel.

Found in the Old Testament book of Genesis, the story of Cain and Abel documents the world's first murder committed because of jealousy, in the view of religious scholars. But during the Oct. 13 mock grand jury trial, lawyers sought to show that things were not that simple.

The mock hearing was part of a series of events held to coincide with the 12th anniversary of the Million Man March on Oct. 16, 1995, in which black men from across the country gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and pledged to be better husbands, fathers and citizens of their communities.

Ronald Moten, co-founder of the anti-violence coalition the Peaceoholics, was grilled on the witness stand as he portrayed Adam, the father of Cain and Abel.

"You indicated that you blame yourself, but what responsibility does Cain have?" Virginia Commonwealth prosecutor William Jarvis asked Moten, who responded: "I believe that no murder should be excused. I just believe that I played a part in it."

The court was filled with young parents and small children who watched quietly. The judge said in an interview during a recess that the hearing underscored the importance of parents' communicating stronger values.

"I hope that this exercise will be productive so that people can think not just reactively to murder and emotionally to murder, but what gives rise to it," Bush said. "And what you can do ahead of time to put services and interventions in place so that people have alternatives to just acting out without thinking."

Bush, who has been on the bench for 13 years, presides in juvenile court. She said that for every child who commits a crime, there are several factors that contributed to the problem.

"Children are not just acting out because they are bad, they are acting out because they are not getting the proper direction," Bush said. "A lot of our children are traumatized for being in violent settings, and they react to being under that constant stress."

Following the proceeding, the grand jury voted, 11 to 1, to indict Cain. In two months there will be a trial, Moten said. They plan to invite crime victims, perpetrators, clergy and scholars together to examine the issue in more depth.

"It was very important that we go back and look at the root cause of homicide so that we can solve the problem of homicide today," Moten said. "We often deal with the who but not the what or the why."

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