Posts Tagged Victim Impact Statements
Even 15 months after the most horrendous mass killing of children and adults in recent history, the wounds are still fresh…
A year anniversary passed in December….
A Governor appointed Advisory Council is still grappling with the “why of it” in hopes of gaining insight into the prevention of another mass tragedy of its kind.
Guns, mental health, school oversight, and parental responsibility aside, a town grieves daily. But there are signs of renewed hope with a new architectural design for a new school just completed and a Selectwoman who continues to lead with grace and thoughtfulness. Using a delicate balance of completing town business and always keeping those who died in our hearts and minds., Pat Llodra accomplishes her mission to ensure the safety and best interests of her residents.
A MATTER OF PRIVACY
Release of the 911 tapes: “Release of the audio recordings will also allow the public to consider and weigh what improvements, if any, should be made to law enforcement’s response to such incidents,” Superior Court Judge Eliot Prescott said.
Pat Llodra, First Selectwoman of Newtown compared the steady leak of information about the investigation of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to “Chinese water torture she now believes recordings of 911 calls from the school should be made public.
“Every day, there is something in the media that drags us back to that terrible day,” Llodra said. “I think everything that can be released should be released.” She asked that media “treat us kindly” in December 2013, just three months ago.
Although each and every victim has their own opinion regarding what is appropriate and what they can personally tolerate, in the final analysis, dispatchers were calm and handled the situation as trained. However, this event has opened up a Pandora’s box in that victim’s privacy issues have never been so exposed. Does anyone really want or need to see photographs of dead children and carnage from perpetrator Adam Lanza?
Does the “principles of Free speech” and journalism trump human decency? Should we rein in the Freedom of Information Act in certain circumstances?
Raised Bill 388 of the Connecticut General Assembly-
AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATION OF THE TASK FORCE ON VICTIM PRIVACY AND THE PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW.
Link to Text of the Bill: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2014/TOB/S/2014SB-00381-R00-SB.htm
This bill seemingly covers all bases in scope with 29 separate provisions stating: “Nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require disclosure of…” in situations in which various documents, files or images, it has been determined that the withholding of such in the public’s interest clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure and such disclosures would constitute an invasion of personal privacy.
Specific provisions added as they relate to crime victims include 27 through 29:
(27) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state, or municipal governmental agency consisting of a photograph, film, video or digital or other visual image depicting the body or any portion of the body of a victim of a homicide, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, [of the victim or the victim's surviving family members.] provided nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit the inspection of such a record in accordance with section 2 of this act;
(28) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state or municipal governmental agency consisting of an audio recording of an emergency 9-1-1 call or other call for assistance that is made by a member of the public when such call (A) relates to a homicide, and (B) captures, conveys or relates to the impaired physical condition of the caller or another person, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, provided nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prohibit listening to such record in accordance with section 2 of this act;
(29) Any record created by a law enforcement agency or other federal, state or municipal governmental agency consisting of an audio recording that is an operative communication among law enforcement personnel when such communication (A) relates to a homicide, and (B) captures, conveys or relates the impaired physical condition of the caller or another person, to the extent that the disclosure of such record could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, provided nothing in this subsection shall be construed to prohibit listening to such record in accordance with section 2 of this act.
(Bracketed text is recommended for deletion while the remainder of 27-29 was underlined in the Bill, meaning that it is new information to be added). As can be noted, this language covers records, photos, videos created by law enforcement,, depicting a body or a portion thereof, audio recordings that convey information concerning a homicide or the impaired physical conditions of victims, and requests for copies of images and audio recordings, including copying of images in which victim families have submitted a written objection to the image.
The other provisions include “everything but the kitchen sink” such as medical files, trade secrets, financial and commercial, content of real estate appraisals , records between those with privileged relationships, school enrollment records, investigative records, adoptive records, town petitions, educational and mental health records, security manuals, emergency plans, correctional institution material, records from government owned or leased institutions, security system information, Department of Transportation records, parks and recreation minor attendees, etc.
This Bill was referred to the Judiciary Committee as of 3-4-2014 after which a Public Hearing of the Government Administration and Elections Committee was held on 3-10-2014, lasting 5½ hours (inclusive of all bills within that committee.) Link: http://www.ctn.state.ct.us/ctnplayer.asp?odID=10015
The number of entities testifying on behalf and against this bill is listed as follows:
To date, the GAE Committee voted 8 to 6 in favor of the bill. It may pass on to other committees prior to the end of the session on May 7th (a short legislative session this year.)
IN MY OPINION:
The Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and the public’s right to know need to be forever balanced. When respect and human dignity are “thrown out the window” in favor of media ratings than we have sunk to a new low in society. I am not sure when we veered off course in favor of sensationalism and gore. However, I do know that the pendulum needs to swing back. Crime victims need to take control and draw clear boundaries for themselves. This is an area with which we should not have to be concerned. However, we are placed in this position by the sheer number of atrocities occurring. Let’s stop the madness and use some common sense and human decency. Government should not have to legislate human decency! If this legislation is passed by the end of the session, may it serve as a model for other states as well as a cautionary tale regarding journalists’ lack of moral compass.
With that said, an answer to reliving some of the pain of a surviving family’s experience following homicide, is my customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance. Using my skills and experience, I can paint the picture with and for you, such that the court or Board of Pardons and Parole can truly know your family member. It will be a testament of the heart, relieving you of the burden at a most vulnerable time. If I can help you or your family, please contact me.
In the Shadow of Sandy Hook What Should be the Yardstick for Victim’s Privacy?
The Innocence Network is composed of 46 states, and several countries around the world. As of 2010, 29 people were exonerated worldwide.
The First Innocence Project was founded in 1992 as a consequence of the landmark study by the U.S. Department of Justice with the Benjamin Cardoza School of Law, in which it was revealed that incorrect eyewitness identifications were a factor in over 70% of wrongful convictions! Attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld were the founding members in conjunction with the Cardoza School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City.
- The New York based Innocence Project is funded as follows: 45% individual donations; 30% from Foundations; 15% via their annual benefit dinner 7% by the Law School and various Corporations.
- The Connecticut Innocence Project-Post Conviction Unit (within the State Office of the Public Defender Services) has a mission to “isolate cases of incarcerated persons who have been convicted of crimes in the State of Connecticut for which they are innocent and seek exoneration. The CIP was started by former Public Defender Gerry Smyth with the assistance of Brian Carlow and Karen Goodrow in the summer of 2005. One had an interest in DNA, the other attorney in wrongful convictions (“a marriage made in heaven”). Pro bono office space was given by the Hartford law firm of McCarter and English, beginning in 2006.
- In 2006, CIP took the Case of James Calvin Tillman, wrongfully convicted of beating, robbing and raping a 26-year-old female. After new DNA evidence proved his innocence conclusively (versus the incorrect eyewitness identification of the victim). Mr. Tillman was released from prison in June 2006 after serving 18.5 years! http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/James_Tillman.php
- Following James Tillman’s exoneration, in May 2007, the State of Connecticut awarded him $5 million dollars for the wrongful conviction.
- In the summer of 2007, the Connecticut Legislature granted funding to the Connecticut Innocence Project to hire four full-time staff, adding another trial attorney and a former police officer-experienced investigator of capital cases to the pre-existing staff.
- In 2009, Miguel Roman’s case was chosen as one of two wrongfully convicted who were exonerated following a prison term of 20+ years! Roman was charged with murder in the brutal beating and strangulation of his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Circumstantial evidence and interrogation-interview in English versus Spanish caused him to give conflicting accounts. DNA analysis of clothing proved the murderer to be another assailant. Roman was freed on December 19, 2008, and his exoneration became official on April 2, 2009, when the murder charge pending against him was dropped. http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Miguel_Roman.php
- Another successful CIP Case beginning in 2007 and ending in 2009, was that of Kenneth Ireland, falsely accused of sexually assaulting and killing a 30 year old factory worker and mother of four by a severe blow to the head in 1986. Ultimately, two male and one female “witnesses” made false accusations to the police about a confession. Consequently, Mr. Ireland was charged with felony murder, first-degree sexual assault and third-degree burglary. Problems with witnesses dying or never charged, inconsistent fingerprint evidence and lack of admission of evidence by the judge were some of the barriers encountered. In the final analysis, more advanced D\NA evidence ruled out Kenneth Ireland as the murderer. He wrongfully served a prison term of 19 years prior to being released! http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Kenneth_Ireland.php
- The Volume of Cases with the Connecticut Innocence Project: As of October 2013, CIP was in the process of reviewing over 100 cases for consideration. Criteria for consideration: 1) Some new form of evidence must exist such as DNA or other evidence; 2) The New found evidence must reasonably assist in proving innocence.
Wrongfully convicted are victims, not criminals
Customized Victim Impact Statement Assistance is available for those victims, family, and friends who are facing one of the most stressful times of their lives. For those who have suffered irreparable damage either as a wrongfully convicted person or as a “traditional crime victim,” there is help. There is hope in the form of a personalized manner, custom tailored to your specific needs.
Can you just imagine what the impact of wrongful conviction had on Mr. Tillman, Mr. Roman and Mr. Ireland? I cannot imagine! Although I personally recall only Mr. Tillman’s case, I do not recall specifics of his victim impact statement. Did he work on it for 18.5 years? Did he have the proper assistance? Was he satisfied with his own words during such an emotional event? We do not know!
The Unjustly Convicted Are Not Only Innocent, They are Victims Too!
One of the worse ordeals in the life of a crime victim that has experienced violent crime bar none, is the participation in the trial process. In reality, a very small number of crimes actually make it to trial. For expert information about this process, listen to the episode of Shattered Lives Radio with guest David LaBahn, President/CEO at Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
Definition of Plea Agreement via Findlaw.com
The process whereby a criminal defendant and prosecutor reach a mutually satisfactory disposition of a criminal case, subject to court approval.
Plea bargaining can conclude a criminal case without a trial. When it is successful, plea bargaining results in a plea agreement between the prosecutor and defendant. In this agreement, the defendant agrees to plead guilty without a trial, and, in return, the prosecutor agrees to dismiss certain charges or make favorable sentence recommendations to the court. Plea bargaining is expressly authorized in statutes and in court rules.
Prior to being thrust into the ranks of a crime victim, one usually has anecdotal information about what actually occurs. The passage of time between the offense and trial is truly “a lifetime,” with its many steps and “strategic delays employed by the defense.” However, from the standpoint of “the State,” in order to expedite the process and save money, frequently a plea bargain is sought.
Would crime victims prefer a “cut to the chase” once they are told of the court trial journey? Alternately, do most crime victims insist on their day in court regardless? When I conducted a search, there was little hard data via the internet to ascertain the answer to this question. However, there is quite a bit on the advantages for the defendant to plea bargain (i.e. avoiding or reducing jail time, having the certainty versus risk of a trial, significant reduction of sentences and reduction in the number of charges, reducing hassles and stigma and REDUCTION OF EXPENSE!). In general, I would speculate that all crime victims want to see a perpetrator serve the longest sentence possible however it happens, no ifs, ands or buts!
The State of Connecticut is an “opt in “ state in which you, as the vulnerable victim have to take the initiative to fill out forms, let state agencies know your intentions in writing, and deal with the bureaucracies in addition to the overwhelming task of dealing with all of the other uncontrollable forces that come with victimization. Whereas, in other states, the victim is automatically offered the information and you can chose to “opt out” which, in my opinion, is much less stressful and energy zapping!
PAPERWORK, PAPERWORK, PAPERWORK
In my home state of Connecticut, as in many others, if your case is being considered for a plea agreement, the victim can request a copy of the terms of the agreement between the state and the defendant. A request must be made to the jurisdictional state’s attorney. Although our law does not specify how to make the request, it is advised that it be in written form via certified mail with return receipt. The victim is required to submit a self-addressed stamped postcard for such notifications. The Notice of Intent to Exercise Crime Victim Rights includes many types of notices and requests depending upon your circumstances. This form can be downloaded from the internet or mailed and includes notification regarding plea and sentencing hearings.
Notice of Plea and Sentencing Hearings( State of Connecticut , as an illustration)
Prior to the acceptance of a plea pursuant to a plea agreement and prior to the imposition of a sentence, the prosecutor must advise the crime victim of the date, time and place of the original sentencing hearing or any judicial proceeding concerning the acceptance of a plea pursuant to a plea agreement.
The victim must inform the prosecutor that she or he wishes to make or submit a statement to the court and has complied with a request from such prosecutor to submit a stamped, self-addressed postcard for the purpose of such notification. (C.G.S. §54-91c)
Plea bargains, as stated earlier, are designed to “dispose of cases more efficiently, “”unclog the docket” while weighing the interests of the citizens of the State and finally, the victim’s family. At times, the wishes of each party may coincide. However, more often than not, the victim’s family feels that the sentence imposed is “not just” that they have been short changed, particularly when only a percentage is served and when “good time” is added (if applicable).
For another perspective of the very limited information on crime victims and plea bargains, this report written by legal journalist Robin L. Barton offers a case example and briefly how a couple of other administer, or do not administer victim rights when it comes to plea deals.
Importance of the Victim Impact Statement in court
Whether a plea is struck or a lengthy trial is pursued, there can be no more powerful a moment in your personal association with the criminal justice system than to “have your say.”
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 can assist crime victims with a personal and customized Victim Impact Statement and help take some of the burden away from your family at a time when tension and stress are at an all time high. Professionally, but objectively, written to convey your feelings, emotions, and opinions regarding your case for the court record. Contact me early for this invaluable service.
Plea Agreements- Are They Half a Loaf?
Being a victim of crime is a delicate balance. In the beginning, you are like a “sponge “who soaks up all of the emotions as they come in a flurry of activity. And, it’s mostly bad. You can’t see the forest for the trees. You may have a blind trust in the system based upon what others might have told you, or what you have seen on television; particularly if your family unit has walked the straight and narrow and you were “just a victim of circumstance.”
What keeps you upright and able to function depends upon many factors. Do you have an inner strength, a resilience that is already built in? Are you a good problem solver? Can you “go solo” if other family members veer off in other directions? Is your support system composed of just “fair weather friends” or are some in it for the long haul? Are you a person that typically retreats or do you reach out? Have you figured out what makes you feel better no matter what happens? Do you have the means to get away from your immediate environment for awhile if only to assimilate the drastic change that has taken place? Can you picture yourself being “therapized” by a professional counselor in a one to one relationship, or perhaps in a support group with others experiencing similar crimes?
How do you know who to trust? Who will safeguard your feelings no matter how irrational they seem? Will your best friend not judge you and place expectations if you do not “bounce back “in two weeks? Sleeping too much; Not sleeping at all; overeating, under-eating, drinking to cover the pain. All of these and more could be part of your scenario as a crime victim.
The length of time taken to “recover “and discover a new normal is highly variable. However, in general, if the intense pain and anger remains with you for several weeks to months, you need professional remediation. I can spot these victims ten miles away, their demeanor, their lack of motivation, the language they use, their poisonous view of life.” The reality is that if this is the person looking into the mirror, it is not truly “your fault.” Ahhh, but life is never fair. The “higher power” who deals the cards is to some extent, in control of destiny.
Crime Victims and Compassion
What about age and gender? The generally perceived to be true, yet unscientific observation is that males typically are the late bloomers in life, and less mature than the female gender. However, they also are acculturated to be “a man” devoid of emotion just by virtue of being male. How very unfair! So, we really have to be more patient with the male species and accept “as is” for the short term. Picking them for life partners is an entirely different story and fodder for another time.
I was recently told by a somewhat arrogant man that I was looking for the “magic pill” when trying to improve a situation. I know there is no magic pill for ANYTHING, but do new crime victims know this fresh out of the gate? No! Don’t they need something to believe in? Don’t they need a place to rest their soul and know that it will be handled with care? Yes, of course!
There is that fine line when you need to extend a hand and be ever so patient as compared to giving a bit of a shove or “kick in the ass.” I say kick in the ass with much sincerity and care. If a crime victim gives you vibes they need help and are afraid to take it, you take the risk of turning them off or calling their bluff using such a tactic. A better term would be “tough love” after evaluating their situation in a holistic manner. Regardless, you are showing you care even if they don’t realize it.
When there is a “meeting of the minds” and you can provide a valuable service in their journey, such as a customized victim impact writing service, this is a definite bright spot in their existence. You remove a great burden from their shoulders!
Key into the term “customized.” A thoughtful, personalized victim impact statement can change the outcome of sentencing hearings and pardons and parole hearings if given the opportunity “to shine.” Victim impact statements should not be written from the same old template like sausages turned out in the sausage factory! Every person is unique and should be valued as such!
See details here: http://donnagore.com/victim-impact-statement-assistance/
A grandes males, grandes remedies!
(Big Troubles Call for Big Remedies!)
According to the Gospels, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place near Bethsaida. The crowds followed Jesus on foot. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. The disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus said,“But we only have five loaves of bread and two fish for them,” said the disciples. Jesus directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fishes and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Jesus and the disciples gave the loaves and fishes to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Approximately five thousand men, in addition to women and children were fed that miraculous day!
What a life lesson! Miracles do occasionally happen. One such miracle is the miracle of the MAG Coalition. The heart and soul of this organization is Yuli Alonso Garza and her community in Imperial Valley, California. From the tragedy and loss of her beloved son, Martin Alberto Garza, a better quality of life away from gang culture is being fostered! The community has embraced this cause wholeheartedly for the betterment of all and much has been accomplished since that dark night of January 6, 2013 when Martin’s life was snuffed out.
The next chapter, the judicial chapter, has stalled like a sputtering engine starting and stopping, causing much frustration. However, the Garza family rises above and looks to God. They are hopeful and confident, relying on the wisdom of a higher power and faith in the criminal justice system. It is at this intersection, once a trial and eventual sentencing date is set, that a victim impact statement can be provided to the court from families like the Garzas. The statement customizes their thoughts and feelings and creates a lasting, positive, impact, painting a true picture and presence in the courtroom for who the victim truly was! (Victim Impact Assistance Service available)
Shattered Lives Radio welcomed Yuli Garza back for a special update following the initial show. Please listen to the Podcast of the original radio show for more detail about Yuli’s son, Martin, and the case at hand. The outcome has yet to be revealed. Patience is a virtue, and the Garza family is virtuous, and we are hopeful that they will be victorious.
· Introduction to our guest;
· A stellar 17 year old with a full life ahead of him and abruptly stuck down
· The importance of MEN getting involved in the lives of their children and communities
· Are gangs glamorized in Southern California?
· The Letterman Jacket program “GO BIG OR GO HOME FUN RAISER” – a model activity
· The court process and the importance of the California Gang Enhancement Statutes: “The California Step Act:”
· A new reality…
· CONTACT INFO: email@example.com
MAG Coalition PO BOX 1639 Brawley, California 92227
· What were some of the qualities that made Martin such a special young man?
· What were the circumstances surrounding the crime?
· How did the family cope?
· How does the highest unemployment rate impact crime in the Imperial Valley?
· What is the easiest way to acquire funds for kids?
· Is rehabilitation and prevention part of the MAG Coalition?
· What was the pilot program about concerning the Letterman Jacket program?
· What does the blue and gold colors represent?
· What kinds of community partners have joined and what has been the benefit to students?
· What is the significance of the Gang enhancement statutes to the Garza’s case?
· What does “one day at a time“ truly mean now over a year later?
· How did Yuli commemorate the first anniversary of Martin’s death and a future project?
· What is her long range goal for MAG?
A grandes males, grandes remedies! Gang culture will not be tolerated…
Typical Sample [Compliments of crimevictimservicecenter.org – Kennewick, WA]
The crime committed against me by John Doe has hurt me in so many ways that I don’t know where to begin.
My friends and co-workers have mentioned to me that my demeanor and behavior has changed at work and during social activities. I am currently experiencing flashbacks of the event and suffer from nightmares and lack of sleep. I constantly replay the day of the crime over and over in my head. I had to describe the day of the crime to the detective, then to the prosecuting attorney, then to the defense attorney, and to an investigator. Having to repeat the events of the incident over and over again was stressful and tried my patience. It became harder and harder to answer their questions or even tell my story again. I had to miss work, show up to work late, and leave work early due to the stress I was experiencing. I am in counseling because I am stressed, anxious, hypersensitive, and have suicidal thoughts. I wish this had never happened and I want it over as soon as possible, but I know my paranoia will never go away.
This crime has hurt my family too. My mother also suffers from insomnia and anxiety due to the crime. We live in a small town and everyone has heard about the crime. My father almost lost his job because he has had to attend court with me. I can’t escape the questions from friends of the family. Naturally, everyone is concerned for my family and me, but not being able to escape the incident kills me. It is just another constant reminder that John Doe committed a crime against my family and me.
I have friends telling me that they ran into John Doe and that she/he says they’re sorry. I wish she/he would stop communicating to me through our mutual friends. When I hear that people have run into her/him my heart races, I have shortness of breath, and start to feel dizzy.
I’m constantly asking God why? Why me, why my family? What did I do to deserve this?
I’m worried what John Doe might do after she/he gets out. I want her/him to get help because this isn’t the first time this crime has been committed and that she/he’d been sorry. I don’t want John Doe to hurt me or anyone else. I want to be protected from John Doe forever.
In 1987, Ladyjustice’s victim impact statement would not have won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism….But, it was from the heart. Looking back now, LJ could have crafted something different…if the emotions hadn’t gotten in the way. And that is the point. Having emotions interjected into the narrative and/or verbal presentation is a double-edged sword… On the one hand, the judge, the attorneys, the defendant and the families need to hear the emotion to understand and to validate the tremendously negative changes in their quality of life and the realities of the situation in terms of the human toll.
On the other hand, emotion can overtake the speaker, especially when in very close proximity to the defendant. As a survivor, you want your day in court. It’s your special time to relate just how devastating the entire experience has been.
Currently in Connecticut, Victim Services open approximately 13,000 new cases annually, assist 14,000 with victim impact statements and accompany over 15,000 victims to court.
In 1987, six years after the murder, Ladyjustice and her mother each took turns and related individual impact statements directly to the presiding judge. Some people choose to “challenge” the defendant to make eye contact in an attempt to “show immediate respect.” Fat chance! This blogger didn’t even bother with that request!
Rather, LJ was mentally focused on how not to relinquish power to this serial murderer; not to give in to fear of retaliation; not to feel that you must look over your shoulder the rest of your life if you say this or that for fear of triggering a response… One cannot live life in fear, no matter what has been taken away! For if you do, the perpetrator has won.
He has the power!
Internet research revealed minimal information or samples of victim impact statements for general public consumption. There are no standard templates. However, the most basic of guidelines furnished by the Crime Victim Services Center in Washington State recommend discussion of the following general topics: ‘With a couple of LJ’s suggestions thrown in…
1) How the perpetrator’s criminal behavior has effected the victim(s) physically, emotionally and financially;
2) Discuss any concerns regarding personal safety and security;
3) “Provide suggestions for a resolution that is fair, that will give the offender the opportunity to take responsibility for actions that caused loss or harm.”
[LJ- Surely you jest if you are talking about felony charges. Taking responsibility – What’s that? And…. how do you spell pre-determined plea bargain?? ]
More specifically, other factors to contemplate when composing your impact statement –
1) How have your feelings changed about life in general, your lifestyle; your ability to relate to others, your ability to cope and need for support or counseling?
2) If you have sustained physical injuries, what were they and how long did they last? Are they continuing? How have your injuries impacted your ability to perform everyday tasks and recreational activities?
The “Aftermath” Questions
What about your ability to:
1) Maintain your general health;
2) Eat, sleep, concentrate;
3) Have other ailments “appeared out of the blue?”
4) Have your relationships with family members, co-workers and “society in general” changed?
5) Are you unable to trust others now?
6) Do you feel a sense of intimacy with your significant other?
7) What changes have occurred with your employer? Are they flexible in allowing you to attend court appearances, counseling and medical appointments?
8) What is your financial status currently?
9) Are you able to be productive?
10) Do you have hope for the future?
The above list is certainly not all inclusive…but rather covers the general landscape.
A Word of Two from …..The National Center for Victims of Crime
In addition, results of the National Center for Victims of Crime’s public opinion poll also revealed that 55% of Americans feel that sentences handed down to criminals by the court are too lenient.
Perhaps this is why seven out of 10 Americans believe that it is very important for the judicial system to provide victims and their families with “…an opportunity to make a statement prior to the sentencing of the offender about how the crime has affected them.”
In essence, for the court to impose fair and just sentences, it is critical that information be provided to the sentencing and paroling authorities on the emotional, financial and physical impact of crime – information that only victims can accurately define and provide through the use of victim impact statements.
Clearly the criminal justice system is ready, as is the American public, for the permanent infusion of victim impact statements into the justice process. We must now make the use of victim impact statements functional and consistent within the criminal justice system.
Comprehensive guidelines, protocol and model victim impact statement instruments must be drafted that address the needs of both the justice system and the victim. Victims must be systematically and consistently made aware of their right to submit victim impact statements and the statement’s application within the system. To accomplish this goal, each criminal justice agency that has contact with crime victims must have comprehensive agency guidelines and protocol that outline the roles and responsibilities of each staff member in the notification, distribution, collection and application of the victim impact statements.
Making a Case for Specialized Victim Impact Statements
Approximately a year ago, this author had a “brainstorming” idea to offer a service to future victims of crime regarding the creation of individually tailored victim impact statements for the following reasons:
1) Not everyone is a wordsmith nor are they able to express their thoughts and feelings in writing (even before the crime occurred);
2) The emotional impact of the experience including recounting the events, facing the defendant and his supporters, the finality of the process; the outcome of the verdict; the absence of their loved one. can incapacitate a victim and not allow him or her to complete their presentation. [LJ- Of course there are options such as mailing letters to the judge, allowing another relative or the prosecutor to read etc…. However, it is sometimes a poor substitute and the impact may not be experienced in the same way]
3) If the victim is capable of sharing his/her private thoughts and feelings with an Advocate who is also a skilled writer, the burden is lessened. If such a writer were to create a series of questions specifically designed to elicit information to portray the deceased person in a way that honors them and is meaningful to the family… How Wonderful!
4) The possibility of a videotaped presentation or a video memorial tribute could go a long way in helping the judge to understand the enormity of their loss.
Currently no specific companies specializing in videotaped victim impact statements could be located via internet search. What a shame….
The problem.. and the beauty of this idea is that people are not “one size fits all” and therefore victim impact statements should not be mass produced as in a “sausage factory.” They are too personal…too important.
The words potentially have the power to alter sentencing!
But, who would provide the service? Who would fund it? Who would keep track of the data comparing customized statements to those that are essentially “fill in the blank essays”? Could this idea come to fruition? Why not?
Heed the advice of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Do not let victim impact statements become an afterthought!
Ladyjustice welcomes other blogger’s input concerning this idea. Until then, Thorence Brey features a series of videotaped Victim Impact Statements for your viewing interest at:
Ladyjustice – Your “Wordsmith at Work” on behalf of Crime Victims and their Survivors