Seated in a downtown Seattle courtroom in late August, Dr. Maggie Hooks faced the man who killed her husband in front of their two children a little more than one year earlier.
Surrounded by lawyers, police and jail guards, Hooks looked directly at Andrew Patterson, 21, and read from a prepared statement.
She explained how she and her young children were coping after the murder of Justin Ferrari, a software engineer who was the inadvertent victim of a gunshot fired by Patterson while driving through the Central Area on May 24, 2012. She spoke about their loss and how it had changed their lives.
Patterson listened and then apologized, his lawyer, Aimee Sutton, recalled Thursday.
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The unusual meeting between killer and victim’s wife was requested by Hooks and was inspired by a sit-down between a Florida family and the man who had killed their daughter.
And while there is a passing reference to the meeting in a pre-sentencing memorandum, it’s unclear what — if any — impact it will have when Patterson faces a King County Superior Court judge Friday morning to learn his sentence for second-degree murder.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Scott O’Toole is recommending a sentence of nearly 19 years. Sutton plans to ask Judge Michael Hayden for a sentence of just over 13 years, which is below the standard sentencing range.
Regardless of the sentence, Sutton insists the meeting with Hooks has resonated with Patterson.
Sutton said Patterson has repeatedly read a copy of Hooks’ statement.
“He did not anticipate how impactful that meeting would be. He really has been thinking about it since then,” she said.
Ferrari was driving with his children, ages 4 and 7, and his parents when he was struck by gunfire at the intersection at East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Ferrari’s father cradled his son in his arms as he died, police said.
Witnesses told police that Patterson and three other men had been at a deli just before the shooting when one of the men insulted Patterson, prompting him to pull out a gun and fire. The bullet missed its intended target and hit Ferrari.
Despite multiple dead ends during a two-month investigation, detectives ultimately collected enough pieces of the puzzle, including Metro bus-surveillance videos, interviews, cellphone records and information from a confidential source to arrest Patterson.
Ferrari’s homicide galvanized a community already sickened by random violence. It came just over a month after Nicole Westbrook, a 21-year-old newcomer to the city, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Pioneer Square. Like Ferrari, police said she was not the gunman’s intended target.
Westbrook’s slaying remains unsolved.
Patterson, who does not have any previous adult felony convictions, pleaded guilty in July.
Attorney Jeffery Robinson, who is representing Hooks, declined to comment on the August meeting with Patterson, which he also attended.
He said that Hooks does not plan to testify at Friday’s sentencing hearing. It’s unclear what length of sentence Hooks is supporting.
Hooks pushed to meet her husband’s killer after reading a January New York Times Magazine story detailing how a Florida family met with their daughter’s killer as part of their healing process, Sutton said.
Patterson had nothing to gain from talking to Hooks. He had already pleaded guilty and had no guarantee that anything he said during the meeting would convince her to recommend leniency.
“What he had were a lot of good reasons, but they were internal,” Sutton said. “He did it because he felt like Dr. Hooks deserved it; Dr. Hooks and Justin Ferrari’s children and his [own] daughter deserved it.”
The meeting occurred in a courtroom instead of the jail visiting room because Hooks didn’t want a glass partition between her and Patterson, Sutton said.
While the two spoke, Sutton and Robinson sat at the table. In the courtroom gallery were O’Toole, the Seattle police detectives who investigated the homicide and a team of King County Jail officers.
After reading her statement, Hooks listened to what Patterson had to say. Within 30 minutes the meeting was over.
The growing concept of victims meeting privately with the person who victimized them or their loved ones is known in legal circles as “restorative justice.” However, it comes into play far more often in less serious crimes and those committed by juveniles.
Prison Fellowship International, a prison ministry based in Virginia, facilitates restorative justice meetings. Lynette Parker, a program manager for Prison Fellowship International, said nearly all of these meetings are between a victim and an offender already in prison.
“We have a good system, however, it is still controlled. The speech tends to be very limited, there’s not that opportunity for dialogue,” said Parker. “This is an opportunity for the victim to ask his or her questions, listen to the offender and ask more questions.”
Parker, whose organization was not involved in Patterson’s case or the case in Florida, said that in a traditional restorative justice setting each side tells their “story.” The meetings can give victims or their loved ones a better understanding of what led up to a crime as well as the defendant’s background.
“I have seen a home invasion go from the home invasion to talking about the offender’s alcohol problem because alcohol was a key player in the decisions made,” she said.
Parker was surprised that the meeting between Hooks and Patterson had occurred before sentencing. “It takes a lot of courage on both sides to have that meeting because you never know what to expect,” she said. “Critics like to call this ‘soft on crime.’ ”
She added that the face-to-face meeting is “the first step in rehabilitation.”
“At the end of the day the goal is to prevent crime and help people who have committed crime understand what they’ve done.”
When Hooks asked for a restorative justice-style meeting to be arranged, Sutton turned to a group in Oakland, Calif., for help but no facilitator was available. With no history putting together such a meeting she, Robinson and O’Toole were “winging it.”
“I frankly had many sleepless nights before this happened thinking what (Patterson’s) participation would mean. I felt like I was in total uncharted waters,” Sutton said.
Sutton said that the meeting was emotional for both sides. Hooks seemed mostly focused on Patterson’s “remorse and his apology and the way he was with her.”
“It seemed she was more interested in him on the basic humanity level. Essentially this was a crazy, fluky, tragic, horrible accident. There was nothing intentional, it was just a very terrible coincidence that he [Ferrari] was in the line of fire.”
Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @SeattleSullivan.