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In most people's daily lives, the cost of making a mistake doesn't come down to life and death.

At work, goofing something up might require the rewriting of a memo or a refund of some money to help a customer feel better about the situation. At home, a mistake might get you yelled at or, even worse, the speaking of the phrase "You've disappointed me."

What’s the point?

An inmate is dead because another inmate was able, according to authorities, manipulate his way into a cell where he could commit murder.

But for most of us, nobody's going to die when we mess up.

That's not true in law enforcement, a profession for which we have a great deal of respect. The reason dispatchers, jailers, patrol officers, detectives and others go through so much never-ending training is because the job involves danger to both the officer and to those he or she is charged to protect and serve.

Think of the recent drowning in Fort Smith, a situation in which a law enforcement dispatcher on her final day of work, contributed in a negative way to the last minutes of a woman's life. Rather than being a comfort to the woman in distress, the dispatcher chose words that lacked compassion or empathy.

The outcome was terrible, and we suspect no one involved has been able to shake the memories of that stormy evening. The mistakes mattered.

Now, move to Washington County, where a man jailed on an accusation of capital murder in Fayetteville now stands accused of a second capital murder. How did that happen? Shouldn't he have been in jail?

He was. And, yes, murders can happen in jail.

Dekota James Harvey, 24, was incarcerated in March after police arrived at an apartment to find Harvey's ex-girlfriend shot in the leg and another woman shot in the chest. The second woman did not survive.

Flash forward to late August, when jailers doing cell checks at the Washington County jail discovered Harvey waiting at the door of cell R-21. It was a cell Harvey had a few hours earlier specifically asked to be moved into and apparently the jail staff accommodated the request. Harvey's reasoning, according to authorities? He said he was afraid for his life and needed to be moved to a different cell.

Unfortunately, when a jailer found Harvey waiting at the cell door later, the body of Luis Cobos-Cenobio was on the floor of the cell behind Harvey. A news release from the Washington County Sheriff's Office said Harvey acknowledged killing Cobos-Cenobio and said the dead man had wanted him to do it.

It appears, according to a jail spokesman, that Cobos-Cenobio was strangled.

Readers may remember Cobos-Cenobio, who was in jail after a Nov. 11 shootout with a Washington County deputy on South Barrington Road in Tontitown. Dramatic video of the event showed the driver of a car pulled over for a traffic violation emerge to fire repeatedly on the deputy and his patrol unit before he got back inside the car and drove away. He was arrested later.

Harvey has now been charged with a second count of capital murder.

The jailhouse slaying is a shocker, one there may have been no reason for anyone to anticipate. After all, Sheriff Tim Helder said it's the first homicide in the jail since it opened in 2005.

It's Monday morning quarterbacking, no doubt, but if a man accused of capital murder asks to be moved from one cell, it's probably no big deal. When he asks and gets very specific about what cell he wants to be moved into, it sure seems that should have raised a big red flag among jailers. Surely, people in the business of incarceration are used to inmates' occasional dishonesty.

If the authorities have the facts right, apparently all Harvey had to do to get close to another inmate he intended to murder was ask. We're surprised at how easily he was able to get into the cell of his choice.

What a tragedy this is for a jail staff that goes to great pains to manage the inmates under their watch.

Mistakes in their line of work are unforgiving, and we can appreciate how difficult their 24/7/365 line of work must be. But we can also appreciate how vital it is that jailers remain skeptical about inmate requests and guard against being manipulated.

It's not inconceivable that a person accused of murder might just try to do it again.

Commentary on 09/07/2019

Print Headline: One wrong move

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