(THE CANADIAN PRESS / Russell Jackson)
Victim impact statements are heart wrenching no matter what the circumstances. Homicide victims are left to pick up the pieces in much the same manner as any other loss caused by violence and irresponsibility.
Consider a family who has suffered the loss of a beloved family member by the hands of a drunk driver.
Is this a lesser loss when measured against homicide? In general, it is just as devastating with changes in circumstances. However, until I have walked in their path, I cannot say that my loss is more impactful. I can say that doing a routine activity like driving a car with equipment weighing a couple of tons needs to be respected at all times. Some people respect it. Most people take this privilege for granted. Others abuse it terribly resulting in a vastly reduced quality of life (i.e. traumatic brain injury, para or quadriplegia) or death.
When reviewing victim impact statements in DUI cases, I decided to “put the impact to the test.” I purposefully did not read any information about this male whose life was recklessly taken. I wanted to see at face value, if I were to put myself in the judge’s role, how I might feel, and ultimately pass sentence, not as a matter of law, but as a matter of heart.
Within my customized victim impact statement assistance service I stress the importance of painting a complete picture of the victim, as the perpetrator is already well-known. Typical “fill in the blank” versions often omit information that could be most vital to the family.
Victim Impact Statement for “Nathan M” killed June 5, 2007.
This victim impact statement was authored by his (brother.) At face value, without reviewing any other internet information, I see:
- Three detailed pages of well written narrative
- A brother who was extremely close to the victim
- A person who evaluate person who life from many perspectives
- A compassionate person who grieves not only for himself, but all family members
- A person who repeats his words regarding the reckless disregard of the perpetrator
- A young man who is not afraid to express his vulnerability
- A writer who pleads for the maximum sentence possible allowed by law (Virginia law – 20 years for involuntary manslaughter)
- A brother who painfully descries taking on all of the responsibilities associated with the aftermath of death
- A man who sees the irony in his brother’s life long aspiration to help others by becoming a police officer
Unique Aspects of this Victim Impact Statement
Drawing the listener in, his brother discusses his fear of not returning to the scene of the crime
“I live two-and-a-half miles from where Nathan died, and have not traveled that way on Interstate 395 North since he was killed. In the past, I drove that way countless times, but I likely never will drive that route again for the rest of my life.”
With time and courage this may have changed. Would Nathan have wanted such a restriction?
I find it very interesting that the writer talks about mourning the loss his own identity and the resulting shift in the family structure.
“…I also mourn the loss of my own identity. I now assume the role of the youngest in the family. I don’t want this role. I have been the middle child, and this shift in family structure is unfamiliar and unfair…..I started a new job less than two weeks after Nathan died. I know my friends can tell that I have changed as a person. …. I struggle each day to focus on my work my and to remain motivated to learn how to be the best at my job. I often decline lunch invitations from co-workers and eat lunch at my desk because I don’t feel up to being social with them. These people will never know the happier person I once was. I never will be whole again. I do not deserve to have my identity taken away by a thoughtless, negligent man who placed more importance on going out drinking with friends than on Nathan’s life and the lives of other people he could have killed.”
Changing of the family structure alters how we go forward in life. We are forced to take on roles, do things we had not planned. Essentially we have to take on a new uncomfortable identity. How insightful that this sibling was able to express this as a significant adjustment.
As if divinely inspired, victim of manslaughter, Nathan Marti completed an “autobiographical project” in school including a last will and testament.
“If I were to go, I would die happy knowing that I had tried my best to be who I am. ….My parents raised me to be a loving and caring person. ….If this was my Last Will and Testament, I would leave all of my earthly belongings to my family and close-knit group of friends…. It’s a scary thought. I hope that when I go, my family and friends are happy and at peace with my death, knowing that we will all be together again some day.”
If possible, the advantage of having several family members present, gives the opportunity to provide am individual picture of the victim so that the court might perceive the victim from many perspectives
What’s Missing “at Face Value?”
This victim impact statement was powerful. It portrayed a family in grief, a family devastated by change forced upon them. It was filled with emotion and articulate thought. It was organized. It was reasonable in requests to the judge. The narrative offered insights not often discussed and made reference to much thought and many drafts in the making.
However, as I read this statement objectively, I wondered, what were the victim’s accomplishments prior to his death at age 25, in comparison to the perpetrator? What were his talents that would not be fulfilled in addition to his job goal? Although his job as a uniformed Diplomatic Security Officer at the Department of State, was stated, I wondered, what were his duties? How did he acquire such a job? Was he in a committed relationship? What had been done to create a legacy i.e. events, memorials, scholarships?
As this was an academic exercise only, I would never presume to actually grade a person’s emotions. That would be totally weird and unfair. Rather, if we look at content and effectiveness alone, I would assign a B+ or A minus to this victim impact statement.
Following delivery and posting of this victim impact statement on Nathan’s Memorial website for all to benefit, which is so laudable, Lindsay had this to say about the experience. Comments that ring in my ears.
August 7, 2008
“I will never know whether my statement had any influence over the judge when she sentenced Chan to 20 years in prison with 5 years suspended, but that is of little importance to me. What’s important is that my victim impact statement provided me with some sort of relief at a time of such darkness in my life.”
Lindsay’s Victim Impact Statement in it’s entirety: http://www.scribd.com/doc/14568236/Victim-impact-statement
To learn more about Nathan Marti and the Nathan Marti Scholarship Fund, fundraisers, etc. go to: http://nathanmarti.blogspot.com/
Rest in Peace, Nathan!