Lamb Of God's Randy Blythe Reflects On Manslaughter Trial
Blythe posted the following on his Tumblr account: When I was a little boy, just learning to talk and still figuring out the intricacies of the English language, I would caution others to 'be carefully.' Little kids say the funniest things, and they say these things with the sincerity and urgency of those whose possess an extremely limited vocabulary. I don't remember ever saying 'be carefully,' but my 92-year-old grandmother loves to tell me about it. 'I would be getting in the car to go to the grocery store, and you would look at me and say, 'Be carefully, Grandma!' You were such a funny child.' she laughs.
I love my Grandma. She was the first person I saw at the airport when I was released from prison, in the front of a crowd, up past midnight and her bedtime, a tiny 92-year-old country woman standing on her own two feet, waiting to see one of her family walking free in his home country. I hugged her, told her I loved her, and scolded her for being up so late. And I go see her now as often as I can. I get to hug her, kiss her cheek, tell her I love her, smell her hair, and listen to her wisdom. It fills me with a happiness I cannot describe when I look at her hands, the hands that cooked me so many meals for as long as I can remember. She is beautiful to me. I am lucky she is in my life, and she is so happy I am in hers, not in a prison in a foreign land. We get to be together, as family is supposed to be, and my life is full.
I am a very lucky man.
If you are reading this, more than likely you were directed here by a link on some heavy metal news site. That means that more than likely you know who I am, what I do for a living, and why I went to prison and then to trial for manslaughter in the Czech Republic earlier this year and last. This also probably means that you are part of my extended music family, and in all likelihood have seen either my band or at least one other band of the metal/punk/hardcore/hard rock genre perform in concert before. You have witnessed the kind of activity that occurs at these shows, and maybe even have participated yourself at some point. Moshing, slam dancing, crowd surfing, and stage diving — these things are a unique part of our scene; the ways some of us express ourselves, shed our cares for an hour or two, and enjoy this music that makes us feel so alive. I grew up in the punk/hardcore scene doing all of the above mentioned things, and I have the lumps, aches, and scars to prove it. I am just like you, just probably a little older and uglier.
When I returned to Prague for trial, answering the charge of killing a young man named Daniel Nosek who was a fan of my band, one of the biggest hurdles I and my legal team faced was attempting to explain the atmosphere of a heavy metal show, trying to get across to three Czech judges how smashing into other people and flying through the air over a crowd in the hopes of being caught was a normal thing. From the perspective of folks who are not a part of our scene, these seem to be the actions of insane people.
Why would anyone do such a thing? You could be severely injured.
Over and over throughout my trial, the witnesses and myself were asked if we knew what 'stage diving' and 'moshing' were, then asked to explain these things. Slowly, through a translator and with the help of videos we put together, we tried our best to show that the aggressive nature of our music and other bands like mine was not an expression of malice. My character was questioned again and again, several witnesses saying ludicrous things like how my quick onstage movements, my deep voice, my profuse sweating, and how I dumped water over my head (astoundingly, I do it because I'm sweaty and hot) was clearly evidence of the fact that I was drunk, on some sort of drugs, and yes, even evil. I was sober as a judge that night, thank God, and I know I never intended anyone harm, otherwise I would not have been able to fight for my freedom. I would have had to tell the judges 'I do not know what happened. Maybe I did try to hurt this man. I just do not know. I cannot remember — I was drunk.' As a sober, responsible adult, my conscience would not have allowed otherwise.
Sober or not, convincing these judges that our show and others like it aren't some sort violently nihilistic orgy of hate and self-destruction took a little doing. Explaining via a state-supplied translator what you and I take for granted as people having fun at a show was one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. It was like trying to tell a person who has been blind from birth what the color purple looks like. People outside of our scene cannot be expected to understand the way we act at shows without a lengthy explanation, and even then they may just think you are crazy. But in the end I was exonerated, and I am a free man as of this moment.
The family of Daniel Nosek never attacked me in the press. They never wished me ill, either publicly or privately. They did not smear my name in front of any judge, prosecutor, or police officer, did not stare at me malevolently in the court room. For this I am eternally grateful to them. I certainly would understand if they had, and would have made no attempt to dissuade them from holding a low opinion of me, for all they knew about me was what the Czech press had initially published — a picture of me as a barbaric murderous American with evil intent. I know what it feels like to hold my dead child in my arms. The emotions one goes through are absolutely indescribable. If I had had a finger to point at someone for taking my daughter from me, I probably would have, especially if there had been the sort of media circus that surrounded my arrest.
Daniel's family did not point any fingers at me. They just wanted to know the truth of what had happened to their son, so they came to court and listened as I did my best to provide them with what I knew. Before the verdict was delivered, the uncle of Daniel (who was the family's representative in court) told the judge that no amount of money was going to bring their boy back, and after hearing the evidence, withdrew the family's motion against me for damages. He also wanted me to know that Daniel had died on his father's birthday, and that Daniel's mother had been unable to function at her job since Daniel's death.
That was it. They didn't want anything from me in that courtroom except for me to understand how this had affected them. There was no malice, just the real, honest, pain that I was already regrettably so familiar with. It was one of the most amazing displays of strength and dignity I have ever witnessed.
When the verdict was read, that I had been exonerated, I tried my best to act with dignity, to show no emotion. Perhaps one day I will be able to express what I felt when I finally learned I was to remain free, but right now I am still trying to understand it. Relief, certainly, but there was a greater part welling up in me, something like disbelief saturated with a deep sadness. A fan of my band was dead, and a family had been shattered. I did not feel like celebrating. I did not feel like going home. I did not feel like staying. I did not know what to do or where to go. It was all very overwhelming. Thankfully, Daniel's family had provided me with one last task before I left Prague. His uncle had asked me earlier that day if we could meet privately after the trial. This was a request I was more than willing to honor. Arrangements were made, and I left court to prepare to meet with him and Daniel's mother.
I cannot tell you what it is like to look into the eyes of a mother whose son is dead as result of attending a concert by your group, his favorite band. I cannot tell you what it is like to hold her tiny hands as she weeps for her dead boy; to hold those hands in your large hands, the same hands accused of killing her son. I cannot tell you in any words what it's like to feel that grief for her lost only child pouring off of her small frame in a massive dark wave of sorrow, to see that pain again in another, so visceral that your body shakes with the awful power and totality of it. These are things that mere words will never be able to convey.
Certain details of the conversation I had with Daniel's uncle and mother I will never write about, because I do not feel it would be proper or respectful. Suffice it say, they were very kind to me, and let me know they didn't have any sort of vendetta against me, or wish to see me to suffer further because of Daniel's death. But there are two things they said that I will write about here, because I think that it is in accordance with the only two things his family ever asked of me.
As we sat on a couch crying, the first tears I had allowed myself since my arrest, Daniel's mother asked me if one day I would play a song for him somewhere. I was astounded by the grace with which she asked me this. Her small request was an immense gift to me, a man who was trying to figure out how he would continue to do the only thing he knew how to do after so many years.
I will sing many songs for him.
Then, as Daniel's uncle and mother began to leave my rented apartment, his uncle reiterated something he and the mother had brought up earlier.
'Remember — you can be a spokesperson for safer shows. You have that power. Good luck, man. Go live your life.'
I promised I would.