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Trials & Litigation

Upset by fatal child-abuse trial, juror creates post-verdict college fund for survivor sibling

Posted Apr 12, 2013 11:00 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Josh Henle was initially aggravated to be called for jury duty in a Clackamas County, Ore., case that interfered with his work schedule and Hawaiian vacation plans.

Then, as he began to learn about the fatal child-abuse case for which he'd been selected, Henle realized the importance of his role as a juror, but became increasingly disturbed by the evidence, reports the Oregonian.

"I grew up believing that there's always a silver lining," he told the newspaper. "In this case, though, I just didn't see it. I never thought this way before, but I was starting to think that there's true evil in the world. I looked at the situation, and didn't know how any of it could lead to something good."

He and his fellow jurors convicted Donald Lee Cockrell of murder by abuse last month, over the death of his 3-year-old daughter, Lexi, who spent much of her brief life in a cage, according to testimony. Cockrell got a life prison term, and his former fiance, who took a plea, got 30 years for aggravated murder.

However, Henle was concerned that Lexi's younger sister Kara, now 2 and living with her mother, would someday have to know that her father committed this terrible crime. What better way to let her know that others cared about Kara and expected the best for her, he thought, than to set up a college fund.

So Henle, a businessman with a young daughter of his own, made plans to put together a college fund on Kara's behalf with the help of a nonprofit founded by Shannon Kmetic, a former Clackamas County deputy district attorney. Kmetic ordinarily likes to see such efforts made on behalf of all of the neglected and abused children her group works to support, but made an exception for Henle. He is the first juror in her 17 years as a prosecutor to take on such a project, she told the Oregonian.

As contributions poured in, a number from people who didn't have a lot of money, Henle said he began to see the silver lining that had eluded him earlier.

"It was really inspiring," he said, adding: "It was like love--you can't force it, but when it happens, you see these great actions that naturally flow out of it."

Kara's mom thanked Henle and the others who have contributed for their support, but declined to discuss her daughter with the newspaper.

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