A 4-year-old Madras boy inspires new Oregon legislation
MADRAS, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A lifetime sentence of physical and mental disabilities -- that's how 4-year-old Ezra Thomas will live the rest of his life after being severely beaten by Josue Mendoza, his mother's former boyfriend.
On Nov. 19 2017, Ezra was being watched by Mendoza while Ezra's mother was at work. He was beaten so badly, he was declared unresponsive at the hospital and had to undergo surgery to relieve brain swelling.
Mendoza was sentenced to 12 years in prison, a sentence that many close to or familiar with such cases feel was far too light, in comparison to the life-long struggles Ezra will now endure.
"Someone who has to live with a lifetime affliction, with permanent brain injuries, who can't move their limbs correctly, who can't talk correctly, who can't breathe on their own -- they have a lifetime sentence," Jefferson County District Attorney Steven Leriche said Monday.
"Meanwhile, someone can go to jail for 5,6,7 or even up to 10 years, come out and life is just how they knew it," he said.
In a bid to bring what many consider greater justice, Oregon legislators and other gathered Monday to announce House Bill 4122, also called Ezra's Law. The legislation seeks to ensure a sentence of at least 25 years for those convicted of causing permanent physical injury to victims during an assault or attempted murder.
Tina Jorgenson, Ezra's grandmother and his primary caretaker, says Mendoza took away Ezra's ability to live a normal life, caring for himself.
"He requires 24/7 care. He can't walk, he can't talk," Jorgensen said. "He can't communicate to us, he can't tell us what is hurting him. He can cry and he can laugh, and we have to decipher what makes him happy and what makes him sad."
Despite knowing that Ezra will struggle his entire life, Jorgenson said she is hopeful that the bill, if passed, will change, even save the lives of others.
"Thats why Ezra's Law is so important to me. It won't help any of us, but it will help our future," Jorgensen said. "Maybe it will detour somebody from doing it. By adding more time, they might think twice about hurting someone."
The "short" legislative session begins next week and lasts 35 days. The bill is on the House speaker's desk, awaiting referral to committee.