Last week, Amber Cummings left the Waldo County Superior Courthouse with a manslaughter conviction on her criminal record, an order to serve six years’ probation and a fully suspended eight-year prison sentence in connection with the shooting death of her husband, James Cummings.

In November, we published an editorial questioning the justice system in Waldo County, and we cited several cases from recent years where the defendant walked away from the process without serving any time behind bars.

Those included Jerome Reynolds II, who was acquitted of shooting 60-year-old Janet Bacon; Michael Nickerson, who was found not guilty in connection with the stabbing death of his brother Charles; and Nikki Thibodeau, whom a Waldo County Grand Jury failed to indict after he was charged with manslaughter in the death of Ben Preston.

In each of these cases, the defendant seemed to escape legal repercussions after taking the life of another.

But knowing what we now know about Amber Cummings’ situation — the horrific details of the abuse she and her daughter endured at the hands of the man she was married to for more than a decade — we see that this case has no precedent. And we hope never to see another one like it.

While we agree with Assistant Attorney General Leanne Zainea’s argument that it is not acceptable to kill another human being, this case shone a light on how the justice system must be flexible enough to recognize that what happens in real life is not as black and white as the law might suggest.

We are encouraged to see that the system worked in this case — that Justice Jeffrey Hjelm’s decision regarding Cummings’ fate was based on her unsettlingly unique situation.

James Cummings is the official victim in this case, but given the information that was presented in court by mental health experts regarding how extensively his actions damaged his wife and daughter, we know of few other victims society might have less sympathy for.

There is no question in our mind that Cummings and her little girl were victims of James Cummings long before the events of December 2008 that lead to his death. No one should ever have to live in those conditions, and we are convinced that because of her situation Cummings could not recognize another way out — it was either her life or his.

She and her daughter are now working through the difficulties they still face as a result of the abuse they suffered, and as Hjelm stated at Cummings’ sentencing hearing, they will have to continue healing for years to come.

There may be those who will see this outcome as a get-out-of-jail-free card for Amber Cummings, but Hjelm’s decision does not mean that Cummings won’t face consequences. She will be monitored through probation, and she will carry the manslaughter conviction on her record for the rest of her days.

We agree with Hjelm’s comments that Cummings poses no threat to the public, and that tossing her in prison would benefit no one — it would have been especially damaging to her daughter, whom we hope will be able to heal and come to enjoy life in our community.

As far as what kind of message this case sends to the public, we hope it will show abusers who are living in our midst that our community will not tolerate their behavior. This was evident in the nearly 100 people who came out to support Cummings on the day of her sentencing.

Many of those people did not know Cummings prior to James Cummings’ death, but had since reached out to the mother and daughter to lend their support. We also hope it will send a message to victims who may feel alone, as Cummings obviously did, that this community embraces those who are in need of comfort and friendship.

We don’t know what the future holds for Cummings and her daughter, but again, we offer hope. Hope that they can continue with their recovery, that their residual suffering will diminish over time, and mostly, that they can find their own ways to contribute to the community that they both now call home.