Mr. Speaker, 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was a bright, talented and energetic little girl. She lived with her father, Mark, who was a single parent, trying to raise three children. He also lived with her grandparents, Mark's parents, who loved her as much. Jessica was a great kid. Everybody thought the world of her, and she took care of the family just like they took care of her.
Mark even moved to Florida to protect his children, thinking they would be safer in south Florida than they were where they lived. That is when the tragedy began. Almost 2 years ago, on the evening of February 23, 2005, the Lunsfords lives were changed forever.
Among the shadows of a warm Florida night, there was a perpetrator running loose. He was stalking the Lunsford home, and he was watching 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford for several days. He waited till everyone in the house was asleep, and the outlaw in the middle of the night snuck into the Lunsford home, crept down a darkened hallway, and kidnapped Jessica Lunsford from the safety of her open home in the middle of the night.
The search for Jessica, 9-year-old happy girl, went on for several weeks. Hundreds of volunteers were involved. Finally, a neighbor, and repeat sex offender, John Couey, was arrested for her murder.
Couey was a registered sex offender, but, of course, he was on the lam. He had run. He had disappeared. Couey confirmed what the police had already suspected against him, and he had kidnapped Jessica. He sexually assaulted her numerous times, and he held her captive for several days.
Mr. Speaker, when he was not abusing this little girl, he stuffed her in a closet. Then when he was ready to abuse her again, he would pull her out and have his way with her.
When he realized that the sheriff's department was out to get him, knew that he was the culprit, he decided he had to remove the evidence, this little girl. So he tied Jessica Lunsford's hands and feet together with stereo wire. He went out into the yard, he dug a hole, he came back into the house, his own home, put two trash bags over Jessica Lunsford, picked her up and threw her in the hole. Yes, he buried that 9-year-old girl alive.
When she was found several days later, she had poked her fingers through the plastic bags seeking the air of freedom, freedom that never came. Couey admitted everything that I just told you to the police, in every detail.
But while he was confessing to these horrors he inflicted on Jessica, he asked for a lawyer. Unfortunately, the police ignored his request, and this would cause Couey's confession to be inadmissible as evidence against him. You see, when a defendant asks for a lawyer, he must be given one right away or the statements he makes will not be admissible in court.
However, even without this confession, there is a lot of evidence against Couey to prove his guilt. After 2 years and several delays, Couey is standing trial for his evil deeds. Today, John Couey is sitting in a Miami courthouse as jury selection begins. Twelve men and women are being asked to decide his guilt in his crime against this little girl.
Jessica has been needing justice for 2 years. Her family has been waiting for 2 years for this justice. As a father of three girls and three granddaughters, I know how important little girls are to a father like Mark Lunsford, and he has lost his little girl.
You know, as a society, as a culture, as a Nation, we are never going to be judged by the way we treat the rich, the famous, the powerful, the important folks. We will be judged by the way we treat the weak, the innocent, the elderly, and, yes, the children, the Jessicas of the world.
So the State of Florida and this jury need to give John Couey, sex offender, child killer, his day in court. When the evidence is in, hopefully the words of this country song will ring true when it says: ``A man had to answer for the wicked that he done,'' because ``justice is the one thing you should always find. You got to draw a hard line' in the sand. ``We got too many gangsters doing dirty deeds. We've got too much corruption, too much crime in the streets. It's time the long arm of the law put a few more in the ground, because justice is the one thing you should always find.
And that's just the way it is.