My Brother’s Keeper

Tony Rehagen: It was a bright weekday in mid-September and the Cormier boys—thirty-one years old, identical twins, best friends, incorrigible malcontents—were coming home. Their sixty-two-year-old father looked out his living room window as a U-Haul rumbled into the gravel drive. Bill Cormier did a double take. A U-Haul?

Bill had never known what to expect from his boys, William and Chris. Before they’d turned five, the brothers had burned down Bill’s house in New Orleans after taking turns playing with a cigarette lighter. William, older by five minutes, sounded the alarm: “One of the beds is on fire. And I didn’t do it!”

But if they had not been model sons, neither was Bill an exemplary father. After the fire, he had opened an escort service, the continuation of a career path that often put Bill on the shady side of the law. Even after he divorced his wife and won sole custody of the twins, the family was always on the move, Bill chasing a new job—hotel manager, computer technician, salesman. By the time William and Chris were sixteen, they’d gone to eighteen different schools and lived in eight states.

Raised in an atmosphere of impermanence, the two had come to rely on the one constant: each other. William was the dominant one, protecting Chris. As the boys grew into adulthood, so did their resentment against their father, resulting in the occasional fistfight.

5 thoughts on “My Brother’s Keeper

  1. What a great line:

    “That may be the only way to free part of himself before the other half is condemned.”

    High degree of difficulty here, writing about a murder when the prosecution is still ongoing. Excellent job of getting access in a situation like that.

    Story would’ve been much easier and cleaner a year from now. But of course it would be a year less current, too.

    Those of us covering news beats don’t have a choice on stories like this — we just write the news as it develops. But what about those of us simply looking for good stories with an element of criminal justice? Is it always better to wait until after the trial? Or are there times when immediacy outweighs the advantage of completeness?

  2. To wait or not to wait. This is probably the most common conversation I have with my editors. My instinct, generally, is to not wait. So many things can go wrong. The anxiety of it hanging out there can be really hard to deal with. (I’m waiting on a trial right now, and I’m really not sure it’s the right thing to do.) But you risk a lot either way. If you try to do it before a big trial, you risk missing big parts of the story. You risk missing people who would only be able to talk to you after a case is adjudicated. You risk working on something for months only to be the reporter who only took it half way. If it’s possible, I try to talk to the lawyers involved, to see what the trial might be like, but that often makes the situation even murkier.

  3. Right. The thing is, trials go on all the time. So, while of course you want to jump on a story about an event that just occurred, you could also find a trial that just concluded and then work backward to the event.

    On the other hand, Wright and Mooney, you both scored big with the Jerry Joseph story. Mooney scored because he did it first, and well. Wright scored because he patiently found out almost everything there was to find out. Both approaches worked in their own way.

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