When homicide abruptly occurs, you can barely function. You are out of touch with the reality of it all. Your world is thrown into an unimaginable tailspin. This happened to my family. It happened to the extended families of Bill and Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins. A father, a son, a sister, brother-in-law and baby to be all lost to homicide.
You learn about the criminal justice system in the “trial by fire method.” Actually, this expression refers the medieval practice of determining a person’s guilt by having them undergo an ordeal, such as walking barefoot through a fire. The personal ordeal of progressing though the criminal justice system is a similar feeling to walking barefoot through a fire.
The personal story of Jennifer Bishop-Jenkin’s family is illustrative of the coldness of the procedures. Not only did they suffer the horrendous loss of family, but a fundamental right was cavalierly dismissed.
In April 1990, they were the elated parents–to-be, Richard 28 and Nancy 25. Richard was shot execution style in the back of his head with a .357 magnum. Nancy lay helpless in the corner of their basement floor, pleading that the killer spare her unborn child, trying to protect her abdomen. The nearly 17 year old murderer had no mercy whatsoever, firing directly at her unborn child, whose gender could not be determined due to the extent of damage.
The cold blooded perpetrator fled immediately and bragged to friends that it was ultimately a “thrill kill.” Why not commit the crime right across the street from the police station. THAT is what occurred. This was a nightmare of the worst kind. Even before the blended Bishop-Jenkins family considered becoming national spokespeople for victim rights, there was the judicial process to contend with after the deaths, and family members were laid to rest.
You act as “little obedient soldiers.” You comply with all requests. You come to court. You dress professionally. You are told to keep your composure at all costs. You listen intently. You are shocked when it appears that the victims are being put on trial and that perhaps, “the poor juvenile was an intelligent boy, with an immature brain.” You fight for the right to be heard. You sweat the details, as no one really knows who the victims were in this court proceeding, as they are just too busy painting the picture of “the juvenile as victim.” They talk about the evidence, the forensics, the judicial lingo. They talk about EVERYTHING but the victims who essentially are faceless nameless people in the ground. You anticipate your special time to speak…and then… as Jennifer tells it, shortly before their time to make the victims come alive, they received a phone call saying essentially, “We are not going to bother with victim impact statements, as the defendant will receive a mandatory life sentence anyway…. So what’s the point?” Never mind that it is a clear violation of crime victim’s rights. Never mind that you only heard the brutality of the crime and not our family as the wonderful vibrant people they were and could have been! Never mind all that!
Fast forward to 2016, 26 years later and the Bishop –Jenkins family has not been afforded the opportunity to speak on the record about the tremendous impact this event had and continues to have on their lives. But, there is hope. A re-sentencing hearing will take place in the future.
If this makes you mad. If it leaves you cold with shock and horror, you need to know what your rights truly are, if you are a crime victim today, or “just an ordinary citizen.”
If you are in need of assistance writing your customized victim impact statement, my service is the best investment of your time and financially.
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