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Seeking Justice in Toddler's Death

January 04, 2002

Re "A Father's Pain, a Judge's Duty, and a Justice Beyond Their Reach," by Barry Siegel, Dec. 30: My hope is that all legislators, when writing criminal law, will have Paul Wayment's face before them.

Under the best of circumstances as presented in the story, the search for justice can fail. Bad laws, such as federal mandatory sentencing and three strikes, daily feed lives to a meat grinder.

Rexford Styzens

Long Beach


This heartbreaking story illustrates the dilemma that can occur when powerful emotion must somehow be reduced to the requirements of the law. Utah Judge Robert Hilder acted appropriately. He was able to carefully balance his human emotion and his legal duties as a judge in a manner most could not even come close to comprehending. I greatly admire his strength and courage.

Paul Wayment's suicide was a result of his incomprehensible inner pain, not a result of Hilder's sentence.

Jennifer Byrne

Thousand Oaks


Siegel's piece was excellent in content and extremely well written. It was clearly a major feat to have obtained such candor from Judge Hilder.

I am a practicing attorney in Los Angeles, primarily in the areas of criminal and family law. In this profession, you soon come to learn that there are few "legal" solutions to "personal" problems.

Tony Zinnanti

Sherman Oaks


If the point of your story was to bring any sympathy to Judge Hilder or the father of Gage Wayment, you have failed. The arrogance of this judge to feel he may be responsible for the death of his father and now for Gage's father's death makes me wonder if therapy might help him.

I also wonder why Siegel did not ask the two men who came upon a baby boy alone in a truck in a deserted wilderness why they left and how they feel about their decision.

The tragedy in this is a mother whose six children, including Gage, had been removed from her; a father who left his baby boy alone, out of sight for 30 to 90 minutes; two men who didn't want to be inconvenienced in their hunting trip; and a judge who was way too lenient.

I think the father felt this way too. That is why he killed himself. The punishment (30 days in jail) wasn't enough, Judge Hilder.

Laurel Blackmore Kuppin

Los Angeles

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