Learning Lessons

Those close to David Ritcheson are trying to learn lessons from the young man's death. The Houston area youth survived a 2006 beating and this past weekend jumped to his death from a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports

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"David was the kind of young man who was very eager to move forward with his life and I think that's this all has come as such a shock and such a surprise to me and the family."

Attorney Carlos Leon represented David Ritcheson who was beaten and sodomized in April 2006. Two teens were convicted and sent to prison. Ritcheson was hospitalized for months and underwent more than 30 surgeries. Leon says Ritcheson's physical condition was improving.

"His strength was coming back. His ability to do normal, daily human functions was improving. I think we just unfortunately overlooked a little bit of the mental side of what was going on."

Leon says Ritcheson turned down help.

"I think in his mind the fact that physically he was getting better I think was making him feel like he was getting better as a whole. I mean yes, I have to be frank about that. When David was going throughout that year there were several occasions where his families and myself recommended it to him. But I will be the first to tell you that David internalized his pain."

Congressional leaders and civil rights groups called on the U.S. Senate to act on a proposed hate crimes bill that has already passed the House. Ritcheson testified before Congress in support of the legislation. President George Bush has already said he would veto the legislation if it makes it to his desk. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee says part of the bill would help provide more services.

"And it is to focus on turning young people away from hateful acts. It is to punish adults who teach young people hate. And it is to include more emotional counseling and resources."

Ritcheson was on the cruise with a couple of friends and the parents of one of the friends. Once the ship returns to Galveston the FBI will investigate the death. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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