“No Tomorrow” is the latest release from Public Policy Productions and will be shown on PBS in early 2011. The Peace & Justice Center got a preview copy and screened it in August. The following review was written by SJPJC intern Jamie Silva:
How much is a human life really worth? How much value can we place, or attempt to place on one life compared to another? What considerations or mitigating factors do we take into account when we determine if a fellow human being lives or dies for their actions? These questions, along with countless others, have been at the root of heated debate between prosecution and defense for decades. Unfortunately, the accepted consensus has failed to provide peace of mind for much of the general public and the story told in the film No Tomorrow, is no exception.
No Tomorrow follows the case of the brutal murder of Risa Bejarano, an 18 year old female with an inspirational background. Risa had only recently completed her foster care program and was on a college career path when it was speculated that she became involved with the wrong people which led to her premature and unfortunate demise at the hands of Juan Jose Chavez, a well-known gang member of the Los Angeles area. No Tomorrow follows the court case surrounding the murder, with a key piece of presented evidence on Risa being a documentary she starred in, entitled “Aging Out” filmed a few months before she was murdered. The documentary followed Risa as she completed her program, maintaining a stable job, and struggling with obstacles in her then foreseeable future. The documentary was a key point of withdrawing emotions of the jury as well as courtroom observers. As recognized by select members of the jury, defense, and family members of Juan Chavez the video ignited sentiments which could have blindsided the jury with destructive emotions that could alter a fair judgment, even though it allowed for the courtroom to “meet” Risa.
Is the use of the video a fair means of introducing Risa as the human she so rightfully was? Or was the video a ploy, with the premeditated hopes of the prosecution, to pull at the heartstrings of the jury? Although it may seem black and white, right or wrong, that is solely dependent on which side you stand. It is important, however, to understand where your decision would come from if you had in fact been a jury member of this trial. It is the responsibility of the jury to make rational decisions, either using the video to support your already made decision or otherwise. A juror had stated his recognizing how the video affected his mindset and was then able to remove himself from what he believed to be an unjust ploy. This was a moment of self-realization that the other jurors were hopefully able to grasp as well. During this trial, their sole duty was to determine what the fair punishment would be for Juan Chavez and to determine whether his life would be a fair repayment for the loss of Risa’s, affecting his family and friends, those who did not believe he could have done such a thing. What decision would you have made?