Crime Victimization is NOT a Spectator Sport


The judge presides over sentencing, applies the law and sets the tone of his/her courtroom. With few exceptions, it’s generally “speak when spoken to” for victims in this process. A victim may request to meet with the judge privately in chambers. However, one is not allowed to cry “foul ball” or “you’re out of order” when victims see inaccuracies or injustices.

The district attorney or state prosecutor represents the interests of the State in a criminal trial against the defendant.  In the State of Connecticut, these officials are appointed by the Criminal Justice Commission with 13 judicial districts.  Chiefs are appointed for 5 years, Deputy Chiefs for 4 years while states’ attorneys serve for a term of 8 years. All other prosecutors are appointed and serve for open-ended terms.

The district attorney will meet with a crime victim family initially. However, often much of the interaction and information is given or filtered through intermediaries such as the detectives assigned to the case or the court-based victim advocate.

I think the prosecutor can be likened to the pitcher of a baseball game, laying out a strategy to strike out the defendant or control the proceeding when it is their turn up at bat.

In our state, the Division of Public Defender Services will provide indigent clients and their children with representation under the state and U.S. Constitution.  Crime victims generally do not have personal knowledge of as to who is representing the defendant, and they rarely communicate with the victim’s family.  The public defender might be portrayed metaphorically as “the catcher” or pitcher” alternately, depending upon who’s up at bat.

The court based victim advocate may accompany families to a trial proceeding and provide information/education and emotional support and also serve as an intermediary between parties.

In this scenario a new crime victim, almost without exception, feels like a fish out of water,  someone who is looking through a  one way glass and is helpless to understand the process, the delays, the putting the victim on trial, a frequently used strategy and the rights afforded the criminal.  This is their new normal for as long as it drags on.

No one can imagine it. No one wants to live it.  However, there is a service designed to help ease the pain when their voice counts the most. During the sentencing phase of a trial, or at a Board of Pardons and Parole Hearing, a victim finally has a chance to speak up.

One of the remaining avenues for crime victims to have a voice within the courts is through victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are usually read after trial as a way to get into the record the impact of the crime on the victims along with their friends and families.

I’ve created a service program for crime victims and offer assistance in creating a cohesive victim impact statement tailored to the individuals and their cases. I recognize that this could be of great value to not only the crime victim, but to the court system as well.

At Face Value – A Victim Impact Statement with Heart and Soul


(THE CANADIAN PRESS / Russell Jackson)

(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:

To learn more about Nathan Marti and the Nathan Marti Scholarship Fund, fundraisers, etc. go to:

Rest in Peace, Nathan!




The Back Stories of Victim Impact


Every crime victim has at least one “back story.” They are the stories that the media doesn’t report, doesn’t know, doesn’t care about, particularly in the manner of humanizing the victim and not focusing solely on the perpetrator.  Back stories contain the victimology, the inspirational moments, the turning points in life.

For assistance in creating a personalized victim impact statement, I offer my services nationally for those who feel they aren’t in a position to objectively present their innermost feelings to the court. Refer to Victim Impact Statement Assistance

Two examples of victim impact “back stories” from different perspectives

The brutal rape of Anne Heck from Asheville, North Carolina as told in 2004:

Anne Heck

Anne Heck

There was the initial impact of his fist hitting my face, the impact of him throwing my bike into the bushes, the impact of his body forcing itself into mine. Then there were the blazing sirens that delivered me to the hospital, my body becoming the source of evidence, my swollen face in the mirror, and the pain in friends’ faces. But there was something much deeper. Now, 14 years later, I was faced with the task of communicating this impact; it was not easily put into words.”

The Day of the Rape:  I was raped in July 1990. It was a beautiful summer day and I was enjoying a road trip on my bicycle exploring back roads. I loved the freedom I felt on two wheels with the sun on my back. What a stark contrast this incident was to my intention for that day.

 Growth  “The day I was raped, I learned about friendship and kindness ….when a stranger picked me up along that dusty road and took me crumpled and terror-stricken to the closest paramedic unit. A rather new acquaintance made calls to dentists for me. I had two teeth that were knocked out-of-place and a kind doctor agreed to stay late to help me. Unfortunately, the teeth were irreparable, the roots damaged. I would eventually have to have root canals and other reparative work done to them.” 

“I learned about letting go… as I had my favorite blue biking shorts and shirt, stained with blood, bagged by police and taken away for evidence.”

“I grew into new ways of viewing my freedom…. as I had my trusty touring bike covered in black fingerprint dust returned to my apartment. It sat untouched for weeks.”

“I remember with disgust… the volunteer at the hospital who came into my room to read scripture and tell me I could be forgiven for my sins. I experienced what it felt like to be shunned at the health center when I went in for a pregnancy test and shared that I had been raped.”

The feelings Anne described included fuzziness, deep fear, hypersensitivity to noise, inability to tolerate crowds, or strangers, the fact that “the emotions were trapped in her body” when trying to glean the benefit from counseling.” She drew a picture of her attacker in an attempt to purge herself of the fear.

Surprisingly, Anne learned patience whether it be with counseling or the results of her HIV test.  She also stated, While I do not condone (perpetrator) Mr. McDonald’s act and feel he should receive his just sentence,…“I have come to accept this as a chapter of my life that has provided me with the potential for my personal healing and development.” 

Moving Beyond:  The year after her rape and much counseling, Anne left her Virginia home to find a support system and a peaceful place in which to heal, she began training as a rape crisis counselor and speaker.  Self defense classes came next and initiating assertiveness training, shedding her former teaching job.   The horrific attack began to fade into the background of her life, HOWEVER, there was an ever-present severe pain in her hips and pelvis. How to relieve the pain and inability to walk, to capture complete healing, if possible?

Enter the detective in her case with news. She and her two young children were ready to “put this chapter away”. In fact, in her words she says, “I believe I’m blessed to have the opportunity to experience this part of my healing process. This event is for me a symbolic statement of hope fulfilled and justice served and most importantly, it demonstrates the power of choosing my own strength.”

The Aftermath:  On August 23, 2004, Terry L. McDonald, (who was serving a 48-year sentence for sexual assault in West Virginia,) pleaded guilty in Prince William County, Virginia Circuit Court to rape and abduction with intent to defile. The Judge in this case was asked to give McDonald the maximum punishment—two life terms in prison—at his October 29 sentencing.

Full Circle: When she returned to Virginia for the sentencing. She also took her bike and declared her freedom on those dusty backroads!

For more information about Anne Heck refer to her website.

A Father’s and a Husband’s  Story from Australia- Victim Impact Statement May 19, 2013

Jill Meagher

Jill Meagher

September 28, 2012  Jill Meager was an ABC radio broadcaster in Melbourne, Australia and was remembered by her peers as “an important member of our local radio team, a vibrant organizing presence at 774 Melbourne, a key liaison for our local radio stations across Victoria and a valued partner in the administrative team supporting local radio around the country, as a widely known, universally respected and much-loved, with a great career ahead of her.”

The body of the Irish-born 29-year-old was abducted and her body was found a week later in a field, northwest of Melbourne. Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41 was charged with her rape and murder. Jill walked along a road at 1:40 am where this perpetrator wearing a blue hoodie called to her.

George McKeon, 55, Father of Jill Meagher speaks for him and his wife:

  • A father has a stroke, with inspiration from a daughter to live to “have future grandchildren to run around with;”
  • A mother’s words recounting childhood memories,
  • Lamenting what could have been and “life stopping” as they know it;
  • Jill’s personality – funny, intelligent with huge empathy;
  • As described by Jill’s mother ,Edith (Who was ill and could not attend to deliver her victim impact statement)  “A couple’s relationship changes after 30 years of marriage – Dealing with the loss in different ways –The emotional harm is devastating, We are inconsolable. The links of the four of us have been shattered…
  • The Aftermath -Emotions felt – Catastrophic, sad, lonely, with anxiety,  panic attacks and insomnia
  • Rebuilding a new life is very sad… as a mother, “I have been given a life sentence.”

Thomas Meagher Jill’s Husband:

  • First Encounter – “awkward” followed by an 11 year adventure
  • Jill embodied everything I could ask … her thirst for life … Sher pulled me through difficult times and “pulled me up even higher in good times.”
  • All things stolen from me…  love, my best friend, our future
  • My world view of good has been shaken to the core…
  • I hesitate to leave my apartment. I have nightmare. I have been forced to move
  • I am constantly confused, disoriented and unfocused
  • The intrusion of the police investigation – . Quite simply, my life will never be the same again.”
  • I miss waking up on Sunday and having breakfast at 2 pm.
  • I think of the waste of a brilliant mind and the beautiful soul at the hands of a grotesque and soulless human being.’ I am half a person because of this crime.”

Sentencing: Adrian Bayley was sentenced to life in prison, with a 35-year non-parole period, for the rape and murder of Jill Meagher. Judge Geoffrey Nettle said that he subjected Meagher to a “savage and degrading” assault and that his multiple previous attacks on women demanded that he be sent to prison for a lengthy period.

Conclusion:  Whether you are “An ordinary person out for nature’s adventures on your bike,”or whether you are a talented radio broadcaster, it matters not. Pain and loss is the same. How we cope and “face the world for a new day” is the most tie that binds all humanity.

Additional References:

Victim Impact Statements: Texas Style


Of all the 50 States, we know by reputation that Texas doesn’t mess around, in particular when it comes to executions. They rank #1 with 522 state executions since 1982, and six thus far in 2015. Compared to other states, Texas takes a hard line.

When their victim impact statement packet is examined from a formatting standpoint, it appears to me, a homicide survivor, to be thorough.

Texas is an “opt in” state for crime victims in choosing to receive “cafeteria style” services from a list versus granting all services automatically and asking a family to “opt out” of those services they are not interested in.

A useful feature of their packet highlights how under which circumstances a victim impact statement is used.

  • PROSECUTOR:  Considers VIS before entering a plea agreement; Considers VIS before to determine restitution (if requested)
  • JUDGE: Considers VIS before imposing sentence by judge (No jury hers it.) Considers VIS before accepting a plea deal;
  • DEFENSE: (EXCLUDING Confidential Info Sheet. Includes notification preferences and personal demographic info.)  The Defense “may see” VIS with the court’s approval and may introduce evidence or testimony regarding content accuracy;
  • PROBATION DEPARTMENT: “Has access” to VIS;
  • TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE:  As part of the process, if the defendant is sentenced to prison, the VIS is forwarded to the TDCJ;
  • BOARD OF PARDONS & PAROLE: The BP&P will “consider the VIS” prior to rendering a decision whether to release the prisoner to parole supervision or to retain.

If we examine the language, some parties “consider,” others “may see” while still others only “forward.”  It would appear that not everyone in the system has equal weight, as it should be, with the judge as the final authority.

Next, the packet includes “dry” statutory definitions and a list of general victim rights followed by rights concerning victims of sexual assault.

Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 56 Texas Constitution, Article I Section 30

  • Receive adequate protection from harm and threats of harm arising from cooperation with prosecution efforts;
  • have their safety considered by the magistrate when setting bail;
  • receive information, on request, of relevant court proceedings, including appellate proceedings, of cancellations and rescheduling prior to the event, and appellate court decisions after the decisions are entered but before they are made public;
  • be informed, when requested, by a peace officer about the defendant’s right to bail and criminal investigation procedures, and from the prosecutor’s office about general procedures in the criminal justice system, including plea agreements, restitution, appeals and parole;
  • provide pertinent information concerning the impact of the crime to the probation department prior to sentencing;
  • information about the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and payment for a medical examination for a victim of sexual assault, and, on request, referral to social service agencies that provide additional assistance;
  • information, on request, about parole procedures; notification of parole proceedings and of the inmate’s release; and the opportunity to participate in the parole process by submitting written information to the Board of Pardons and Paroles for inclusion in the defendant’s file for consideration by the Board prior to parole;
  • a separate or secure waiting area at all public court proceedings;
  • prompt return of any property that is no longer needed as evidence;
  • have the prosecutor notify, upon request, an employer that the need for the victim’s testimony may involve the victim’s absence from work;
  • on request, counseling and testing regarding AIDS and HIV infection and testing for victims of sexual assault
  • request victim-offender mediation coordinated by the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
  • be informed of the use and purpose of a victim impact statement, to complete a victim impact statement and to have the statement considered before sentencing and acceptance of a plea bargain and before an inmate is released on parole.

A victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim may be present at all public court proceedings, with the consent of the presiding judge; 

A judge, attorney for the state, peace officer, or law enforcement agency is not liable for a failure or inability to provide a service enumerated herein. 

Victims should also know that they can have a victim advocate accompany them during the sexual assault exam if an advocate is available at the time of the examination. 

Please call your crime victim services contacts in law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office for more information about victim services in your community. 

Contents of the Confidential Information Sheet 

  • Basic identifying info regarding the defendant;
  • Instructions and  brief checklist regarding the effect that the crime had on the victim and family;
  • Victim’s Name; 19 item Checklist with emotionally related feelings (i.e. Changes in sleep pattern, anger, depression, fear of strangers etc.)
  • Question – if counseling has been sought, with the opportunity to write a narrative about the family member’s “thoughts, feelings and general well-being”.
  • Narrative Section for Physical Injuries suffered due to the crime, asking  the extent of injuries, longevity and location of treatment received;
  • Financial Loss Section- Requests the type of losses incurred with a brief checklist including inquiry re victim compensation and the recommendation of keeping a log
  • Final signature and Date

What’s Missing?

There is no mention, nor can I find legislative effort for Texas families to provide photos of their loved one during these vitally important events. This may exist if requeste, I just could not locate any evidence in my search that it is part of the procedure.

MISSING- Any recommendation to “paint the picture” using a  description of who the deceased victim was as a person, as a member of the family, his/her  previous contributions, talents, hopes, dreams, missed opportunities!  No mention is made to provide a videotaped statement by significant family members who cannot physically attend or who may be elderly, frail and pass on in the future and want to have their wishes documented.

It’s like baking a cake and omitting the flour!

Finding the Missing Piece

puzzle-654961_640One of the remaining avenues for crime victims to have a voice within the courts is through victim impact statements. Victim impact statements are usually read after trial as a way to get into the record the impact of the crime on the victims along with their friends and families.

Creating the appropriate victim impact statement can be a daunting task for families during one of the most traumatic times in their lives. After the initial loss, the journey through the judicial system can be equally frustrating, time-consuming and emotionally draining, re-traumatizing and bringing grief back to the surface. To best utilize the victims’ right to present a victim impact statement at trial, you must be clear-headed and as objective as possible, which for the crime victim is next to impossible.

I provide a professional Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service for surviving victims that may be too emotionally distraught, or may not have the ability to correctly express their feelings.

If you are in the above situation, please go to Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service for more information and my credentials.