Paying the Price Over and Over: Still More Victimization for Crime Victims!  

 

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Once upon a time there was a crime victim advocate who received a mysterious message from a State’s Attorney via her website. Ahh, yes, it was me.  With considerable trepidation I listened to the message which concerned a very high profile Connecticut case of long ago that had international press that stretched from West Hartford, to Israel and Mexico, and even the TV show, “America’s Most Wanted” several times!

Background

This case was one in which I was personally invested beginning in the 80’s. I had bonded with the matriarch of the family with whom I attended support meetings. I was there as a court escort during every ghastly minute of the trial and sentencing to try to educate and support the family.   In later years, I did a radio podcast with this wonderful woman who conveyed her ordeal after a 23 year wait for justice and after having survived many additional  family tragedies. This elderly lady was resilience plus!

We would touch base every so often and, admittedly, we have not been in touch for a long time.

It is so hard to know when someone in their 70’s, 80’s or nearly 90 wants to “put it all away,” like sealing an envelope, locking the door and moving on forever, however, not at peace, their heart remains.  This becomes the moral question when you are faced with a choice.

The Conversation

The attorney was a post conviction attorney and was in charge of representing the victim’s family in still another judicial hearing. The murderer was now requesting an appeal on the basis of ineffective counsel. All of the rules and procedures of ineffective counsel appeals are complex and speaks primarily to the plight of indigent clients. 

However, in this case, the defendant was anything but poor, with a wealthy family able to hide him out for years in other countries undetected! Although money talks, the attorney told me that these appeals are seldom successful.

The Shocker

I was contacted as the attorney was scrounging around the internet to try to find contact information for the victim’s family.

What?? How could this be?  

Was it because the attorney newly assigned attorney didn’t have access to the original case file? Was it because there was such a huge timeline from the initial crime convictions, years on the lamb, and actual capture and family members are now not able to be accessed?

This was a HUGE case with the FBI and the murderer being one of the most sought after criminals in history! Apparently, they don’t keep track of family once their job is done!

No, No, No… The real reason was that all of the funds in post conviction Connecticut cases currently have to be put into the judicial process. That means there are no investigators to assist and no victim advocates to notify victim families!  No funds whatsoever on the victim side of the equation such that an attorney is relegated to doing his own internet searches and being as creative as possible to get the job done.

As a homicide survivor from Connecticut I am horrified! How many other post conviction cases are there with absolutely no victim services for investigation and the all important notification?

(The actual timeline spanned from the date of the murder in March 1987 to July of 2011 when the evil perpetrator was finally escorted to prison in Connecticut  to begin serving his 60 year sentence.)

The Request and Follow-Up

Can I contact the victim’s family and notify them that this proceeding is taking place soon and provide contact information to the attorney?  There was another option of a former  retired investigator assisting.

I  was truly torn.  To receive a communication out the the blue, involving this family who has gone through so much already. In addition, I did not know how my very elderly friend’s health could withstand such news or whether she had any interest at all to disrupt her life yet again! And wait a minute – It is the responsibility of the State of Connecticut and affiliated Victim Services to provide notification and follow up support!

I tried to research and locate an older family sibling in and out of Connecticut and made calls, but was unsuccessful in reaching the correct person.  

I then decided to check out the situation further and went to the West Hartford Police to speak to a detective. The young detective listened and agreed to check on the veracity and the circumstances, which he verified with a follow up call to me. However, it was clear that they were still putting the ball in my court.

I still did not feel comfortable calling this family’s matriarch after so many months to deliver such news! It didn’t feel right.  I think I was correct. This is why… In July 2011 the perpetrator’s sentence was disposed and he was ordered to begin his long overdue sentence in a secure facility.

At this proceeding, the following were Addie’s words-

I’m not here to see Adam Zachs. My family is not here to see Adam Zachs. I’m here to support some of the people [who captured Zachs] – the West Hartford police, the U.S. marshals. They were relentless.”

“The reason I don’t want to see Adam again is I’ve had enough of the Zachs family,” Carone said. “Three weeks at the trial they looked at us with hate in their eyes and their faces, anger at us, and arrogance. No words of any kindness or sympathy. Shame on the entire family. I will never, never forgive that family.”

Parting Thoughts

What has our criminal justice system become when there are absolutely no funds to notify victims of still more turmoil in a scenario that has dragged on for years and years? How many more families are affected by this situation?  Why are survivors of crime a mere afterthought in such cases?

There is no doubt that this murderer was guilty and that thousands, maybe millions of dollars were expended in investigating and trying to capture this worthless human being- a person with no conscience and was all about privilege to get through life?

This is the responsibility of our State as a matter of public safety and our Constitutional Victim’s Rights. We must inform  in a timely matter with sensitivity, the perils of crime -wounds that never seem to heal.

References-

https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/criminal_justice_section_newsletter/crimjust_cjmag_24_3_primus.authcheckdam.pdf

https://patch.com/connecticut/westhartford/convicted-killer-zachs-taken-away-to-prison

https://patch.com/connecticut/westhartford/convicted-killer-zachs-taken-away-to-prison


DonnaGore-2To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

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The Silence Can be Deafening- No Apologies for Being an Advocate 

Don Gore

Don Gore, my father

After 36 years of surviving the most life-changing event in one’s life, you gain perspective, but you also lose friends along the way.

My father’s murder occurred in Hartford Connecticut on April 17, 1981, and it made the law books for a particular legal maneuver. It was a case whose trial was prolonged for 6 1/2 years, caught in the morass of determinate and indeterminate sentencing laws. It was a case that coincided with the infancy of victim rights. My father’s case began as a missing person and ended as a homicide.

It was a case characterized by unthinkable events such as our family learning the news via a newspaper article and taking it upon ourselves to call the police, as no notification had come our way. There were promises were made such as, “This career criminal will never get out.” In fact, a very skilled attorney/victim advocate was puzzled as to why the perpetrator ever became eligible for parole in 2013.

My father’s murder case changed the State of Connecticut policy regarding the anonymity of victims during a parole hearing although the parole board failed to even acknowledge such a milestone.

That’s when I decided not to be silent. Don Gore needed a voice and I became that person in every way imaginable.

It is not a role I consciously chose, it evolved as my intellectual curiosity and need for justice grew.

Times have changed, with an entirely new generation appearing since 1981.  The landscape in victim services has expanded to include a plethora of agencies, governmental to non-profit. In addition, in 2017, violence, public perception, tolerance of what once was unacceptable, and the ever-changing social mores, has also escalated with the immediacy of social media.

In situations such as violent crime, I believe complacency breeds indifference. If you are not part of the solution, you could be part of the problem. It’s not that you have to go the whole hog, just make a meaningful contribution in your own way.

But then, there are the constants that don’t seem to change the work against positive change and hope for the future. These elements are equal to the silence that pervades if you chose not to be a voice for change, or, at the very least, acknowledge what others are doing and give moral support. The silences can be deafening causing me to work with increased fervor.  Some examples:

  • The murderer having no cognizance of who he killed or who was related to him in addition to showing no remorse;
  • The vulnerabilities that still surface, even after 36 years;
  • The tendency of the public to stay in denial mode, shaking their collective heads unless homicide or other crimes have touched them personally;
  • The lack of connection or involvement in many homicides and missing person families;
  • The refusal to see beyond the obvious that homicide and missing persons isn’t uplifting and that there is nothing positive that can come forth by educating and creating awareness. How wrong these people are, they will never get it! When you look beyond the surface, as advocates, we have been the force for so much positive change. As a byproduct, you gain surrogate families who can be very nurturing. Out of tragedy, inspiring events occur.
  • The lack of resources and assistance for so many families, even in this enlightened era forcing us to be ever more creative to get the job done.

The Future

Although I do not look forward to the five-year mark looming in the background for another appearance at a parole hearing in 2018, I embrace the right and duty to continually try to be the voice of my father, Donald W. Gore, whose life was snuffed out so abruptly and unfairly.

I hope he will be observing with pride from his place in heaven.  Dad, you are missed by many!

DRG- 4-16-2017


DonnaGore-2

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

Why Was  Convicted Murderer Adam Zachs Eligible for Bond?

Adam Zachs

Adam Zachs stands in court to face a 60 year sentence for the murder of Peter Carone, Thursday, June 30, 2011 in Hartford, Conn. Zachs was found in Mexico after spending 22 years on the run. (AP Photo/Michael McAndrews, pool)

 

Appeal Bonds  Definition- An Appeal Bond –  (Also called a Supersedeas Bond) is a surety bond required by one who wishes to have a judgment or execution of judgment stopped pending reconsideration of the case by the Court. The bond guarantees that the opposing party will be made whole should the appeal action be unsuccessful.
Appeal bonds in most cases require collateral security in the form of cash or an irrevocable letter of credit. 

Adam Mark Zachs is a convicted murderer from Connecticut sentenced to 60 years for the murder of Peter Carone.  He had been on the lam from authorities since June 1989 for 22 years after fleeing the State of Connecticut while his first-degree murder conviction was on appeal. His Aunt posted a $250,000 bond after sentencing

On August 23, 1988, after less than two hours of deliberation and with overwhelming evidence presented against him, Zachs’ attorney immediately appealed the verdict and was next scheduled to appear in court in June 1989.  Zachs was set free on a $250,000.00 bond, posted by his aunt, Sybil Deitch.

I was in the Courtroom with the Carone family when Judge Thomas J. Corrigan (The same judge presiding over my Dad’s murderer) ruled  to release this killer to his parents.

On October 13, 1988, Judge Thomas H. Corrigan set four conditions on Zachs’ Appeal Bond:

  1. He “must live with his family;” 
  2. He was “not to  possess a gun, rifle, etc.” 
  3. His parents were told they must take on the and responsibility of searching [his] belongings and automobile;” and 
  4. “Any violation of these conditions would constitute a violation of the conditions of the Appeal Board.”

I though it incredulous when I heard the judge say, “Now will you promise to search his room and car for any weapons?  Yeah, … Right!  “Oh, Yes Judge, of course, we promise”

As far as we knew, his father and his father’s employees (who were complicit in hiding him out in “who knows where” and a family of wealth did everything to disrespect the system and justice for the Carone family after the murder of Peter Carone!

Fugitive Adam Zachs

It was rumored that perhaps Adam was sent to Israel. However, it was Mexico as we were to learn.  Zachs created an entirely new identity,  computer business, taking a wife and having children. This man was said to have a Little Napoleon Complex” hot headed and hot-tempered. Why else would you shoot someone after they made a remark and “spit shined a spot at the bar”…. causing rage after discussing a basketball championship!

Zachs was arrested in February 2011 and extradited back to Connecticut from Leon Guanajuato, Mexico.

As of October 11, 2011, The State of Connecticut  Attempted to “clean up the underhanded nature of doing business as a bail bonds agent with oversight  by the Insurance Commissioner  as it pertains to the professions excluded,  licensing, accounting practices,  ethics, referrals, facilities allowed to do business etc.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/PA/2011PA-00045-R00SB-00028-PA.htm;

But the REAL question is, why did Adam Zachs become eligible at all?

There are certain considerations if a case is heard in Federal Court, if a perpetrator is seeking release before sentencing (Zachs was already sentenced to 60 years) or whether there is an issue of appeal to consider to reversal, reduction or a new trial.  As noted in Criminal lawyers.com-

“If a convicted defendant is sentenced to prison and seeks bail pending an appeal, the judge must also consider the merits of the appeal as well as the defendant’s risk of flight and dangerousness. Essentially, the judge must find by clear and convincing evidence that:

  • The defendant isn’t likely to flee
  • The defendant isn’t a danger to the community
  • The appeal isn’t a delay tactic
  • The appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal, an order for a new trial, a reduced sentence or a sentence that doesn’t include a prison term”

Conclusion

I would say that Judge Corrigan made one of the most significant errors of his career while on  the bench!  He saw a family of means who he thought would watch over their felon son and believed their lies.

How could he know this case would be one of the most high-profile international cases of its time and that the perp’s family and employees would commit criminal acts as well?

How could he know that this case would be featured on “America’s Most Wanted “several times?

How could he know that the Carone family would suffer so many losses over years and this case contribute to the death of other family members?

Since then, in a previous podcast with Shattered Lives Radio,  Addie Carone alluded to the fact that this case set precedence – as well it should have!

Suffice it to say that the Carone family is to be admired for their character, resiliency, and perseverance against what seemed like impossible odds to “catch a killer.”

References: http://articles.courant.com/2011-02-02/news/hc-adam-zachs-captured-0203-20110202_1_adam-m-zachs-michael-carone-appeal-bond

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/adam-zachs-arrested-conn-man-who-vanished-after-89-murder-conviction-captured-in-mexico/

http://www.courtbondsurety.com/appeal-bond

http://www.adamzachs.com/

http://criminal.lawyers.com/criminal-law-basics/obtaining-bail-after-a-conviction.html

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2011/ACT/PA/2011PA-00045-R00SB-00028-PA.htm;


Further information about grief as a victim of crime is available in my book, Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide, which includes the stories of others who are traveling this long journey.

Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide

Donna R. Gore

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

 

 

 

Carnage and Lack of Remorse: Elderly Drivers – (The Case of George Weller) 

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Having worked with elderly clients for years, I know the struggle families face when they come to the “crossroads of life” in many arenas. There are so many things that can go wrong to cramp your style when it comes to independence. However, when it begins to impact others such as driving, we have to balance this privilege with public safety.

Do we help someone maintain their dignity and independence at the risk of their life and the lives of others? I think not. All of us will have to give up this rite of passage at some point. The question becomes, where do we draw the line? Is it a score on a driver’s re-training test? It is so many interactions, close calls or lapses in judgement or concentration? There is no uniformity nationally. Each state has its own criteria.

The 2003 case of 86 year of George Weller from Santa Monica, California may seem obvious on the face of it. When I looked closer, I was appalled at the true facts from a variety of sources.  This case illustrates the perfect storm – a disaster of mass proportion that NEVER should have occurred. It will live in infamy for the 80+ families experiencing death or serious injury as well as the entire community.

Witness Accounts-

  • Officers interviewed more than 100 witnesses, who gave conflicting reports regarding the driver’s demeanor at the time of the incident.
  • After it was over, witnesses said he yelled at pedestrians, “You saw me coming. Why didn’t you get out of my way?”
  • “Sixty miles per hour and it wasn’t slowing down. It was flying. And then people down, dead and everything,” said David Lang, manager of a shoe store along the market route.
  • One witness said: “It was like a Sherman tank barreling through, hitting everything, and just going right over people.
  • “He was not only speeding, he was accelerating.”
  • “He looked very, very confused,” Crisman said. “I think he was just mentally out of touch. He seemed very confused when he stepped out of the car. He definitely shouldn’t have been behind the wheel.
  • “I heard a car just hit, bang, bang, bang,” said Mojgan Pour, 38. “I heard people screaming. By the time I looked, I never even saw the car. I tried to help a man and he died while I was helping him.
  • Witnesses testified that he stared straight ahead with both hands on the steering wheel while bodies flew over the hood of his car.
  • Bodies were sprawled all over in the strawberries.

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Facts of the Case:

  • On July 16, 2003, at 1:47 p.m. this 86-year-old drove his 1992 Buick LeSabre (weighing 3,340 lbs.) at moderate to high-speed for at least 3 blocks into crowds of people congregating at the popular Santa Monica Farmer’s Market at the Third Street Promenade. This market is the largest and oldest  organic market held every Wednesday and Saturday on  Arizona Avenue between 2nd and 4th Street;
  • The Market was established in July 1981 with 75 farmers and thousands of pedestrians visiting bi-weekly. Arizona Avenue ends at the ocean and is blocked off during market days.
  • Weller intended to mail a letter, drove westbound down Arizona Avenue , initially striking a 2003 Mercedes-Benz stopped at a cross walk.
  • He then accelerated around a road closure sign, through wooden saw Horses and into the crowd ~ 1,000 feet going 40 to 60 mph in just 10 seconds;
  • Significant was the fact that no brake lights were noted by witnesses.  Weller didn’t move, effectively steering his car down the middle of the street into people versus trying to avoid hitting pedestrian versus steering into saw horses and fruits –vegetables, this avoiding self-injury.
  • Weller’s car finally came to a stop after hitting a ditch when a body became entangled underneath his car and others flying in the air, landing on the hood;
  • In 2000, he passed a written test with a fairly high score and there the requirements stopped for license renewal. He had heart disease, but no report stated he had any significant side effect from his medication, nor was any alcohol found.
  • In the immediate aftermath in which George Weller plowed his big car into the crowd, 9 people were killed and 54 hurt which increased to 10 dead and over 70 injured.
  • On July 24, 2003, it was reported that state officials revoked Weller’s driver’s license;

Court Proceedings- Main Issues for the Jury-

Did Weller have control of the car during the 10-20 seconds; The prosecution said yes, he had plenty of time to “self-correct”. The defense claimed “pedal error”- confusing the brake for the accelerator

What was the definition of Felony Gross Negligence- “More than ordinary carelessness, inattention or mistake in judgement.”

  • On January 6, 2004, Weller pleaded not guilty to the charges before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paula Adele Mabrey and was released on his own recognizance.
  • On January 14, 2004, victims and relatives filed suit against the City of Santa Monica and Bayside District Corp., organizers of the Santa Monica Farmers’ market, alleging that the crash could have been prevented by the installation of metal barriers. Attorney Geoff Wells, representing victims- relatives, stated that the defendants failed to take any reasonable steps to provide protection for the patrons at the farmer’s market.” In 2008, the City of Santa Monica had thus far paid out $21 million to settle dozens of civil lawsuits stemming from the case.
  • Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson said he agreed completely with the jury and called Weller’s actions callous and showing “an enormous indifference to human life.”
    George Russell Weller was convicted Oct. 20 of 10 counts of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence
  • The judge noted that Weller had enough control of his vehicle to avoid cars and trucks within the farmers market.
    “Mr. Weller chose to steer into the people, plowing into the crowd and literally launching bodies into the air as his car sped 2½ blocks,” the judge said.  He also called Weller’s apologies hollow.
  • As Weller was too ill with heart disease, confined to bed and did not attend the proceeding the Judge said he wanted to be practical and save the taxpayers money, knowing that prison would kill Mr. Weller. 
  • Weller, almost 90 years old, was placed on five years’ felony probation and ordered  to pay $90,000-100,000 in penalties, including fines and restitution to two families with others still in process.

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Parting thoughts-

Below is an excerpt of his police interview. As a former food broker, it is incredulous to me that he appeared more concerned that the people he killed and injured did not get the value for their purchases versus the loss of life.  What??  And he didn’t just contribute to it, he caused it! 

George Weller’s words

“But, God almighty, those poor people. Poor, poor, tragic people. I had, I have the feeling that they were just down there for the value of the thing in the first place because the prices were good. And what a tragic ending to their outing, and I contributed to it, which is just almost more than I can figure out.”

On September 26, 2006 the jurors heard Weller describe the last time he renewed his California driving license. He told police that he took a written test but wasn’t required to show that he could drive safely.

“I passed the written test, high enough to where they didn’t ask me to take a drive, particularly at my age,” “I lucked out,” Weller said on the tape.”

On December 9, 2010, George Russell Weller died only 2 days after his 94th birthday.

The number of Americans over the age of 70 is set to explode in coming years from 28.5 million in 2011 rising to 52.7 million in 2030, according to the U.S. Census.

References: http://www.santamonica.com/restaurants/santa-monica-farmers-market/

http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/West/07/16/farmers.market.crash/

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2003/07/17/car-plows-into-crowded-santa-monica-farmers-market.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Monica_Farmers_Market_crash

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/no-jail-for-elderly-driver-in-market-crash/

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/sep/26/local/me-weller26

http://www.autoblog.com/2013/07/15/tragic-crash-elderly-driver-laws/

Donna R. Gore

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com