Tears flow easily in courts of law. Mothers cry for sons. Husbands cry for wives. People cry for themselves. Such is the nature of justice.

And Friday was no different before Judge George Ballif in 4th District Court. A handsome, strapping youth stood to be sentenced for more than 10 felonies. There were the typical legal arguments - one charge was sent back to another judge. But the sentences for the other charges rained down from the bench.The young man was crying for the embarrassment he had caused his family. He told Ballif that the judge had once questioned his family's support in an earlier hearing, but that the support had always been there. The crimes were his and his alone.

He cried. His family cried.

The judge went on to the next case.

It was a kid with anger and frustration. He had already served 100 days in prison, and the judge was going to sentence him to 90 days in a diagnostic unit there to find a rehabilitation program that might help him. The kid wanted to get on with the program now and spend no more time in jail. But such wasn't to be.

The judge moved on again, and the second man returned to his place with the other accused in the jury box.

The first kid, more controlled now, turned around to his chained companion. "It'll be OK," he said, trying to comfort. It's easy time.

Quiet words. Quiet deeds. In the midst of such deep human tragedy, acts of kindness shine like frost in the moonlight.

I'll never forget a murder trial I once covered. For two weeks, the litany of tragedy and horror rolled forth. Jurors, family members and others associated with the case were emptied emotionally by what happened.

On the day the verdict was read, a kind, attractive woman sat with her husband. She hadn't been there before, but I knew her and considered her a friend. Then it dawned on me - this friend (I'll call her Sherry) was the killer's sister.

It shook me to watch a friend victimized by something so terrible, and it nearly shattered my objectivity.

So I talked about the sadness with a mutual acquaintance of ours. (I'll call her Claudia.) Our conversation went something like this:

"You know Sherry?" I asked.


"Her brother was convicted of first-degree murder last night."

The light of recognition dawned in Claudia's eyes.

Then Claudia told me her story. She had been going through some difficult family problems of her own. Needing someone to lean on, she had turned to Sherry and they had long talks. Sherry often asked how things were going and genuinely offered help in any way possible.

All the while, Sherry's brother - near her age - was on trial for a murder as gruesome as any in Utah's history. I wish I could convey how that moved me. The emotions of the conviction were so intense and the kindness so genuine that I'll never forget it.

Kindness amid tragedy. Charity amid tears. Life at its best shows brightest so often when life is at its worst.