Protection Under the Dome: Is Your State Capitol a Safe Place? 

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It’s a “sign of the times” so they say…being cautious and proactive against future violence.  After 9-11 in our neighboring state of New York and the horrible massacre in Newtown, CT in 2012, you would think that we would have caught up with other states. However, it appears that public buildings for the public’s use and enjoyment was a primary reason against installing metal detectors at our historic and palatial looking State Capitol  (constructed between 1872 and 1879). But perhaps, “the public’s right to enter’” should be safeguarded as much as possible in 2015.

“For decades, legislators in Connecticut resisted recommendations by police to add metal detectors as a permanent feature at the Capitol and Legislative Office Building.”

A little history regarding the registered historic landmark: the Connecticut State Capitol 

The Capitol was opened in 1878 and stands in the picturesque setting of Bushnell Park. (Construction 1872 -1879). Designed by Richard M. Upjohn, a cathedral architect, this High Victorian Gothic style statehouse was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1971 and underwent a restoration between 1979 and 1989.The exterior marble from East Canaan, Connecticut and granite from Westerly, Rhode Island is accented by a gold leaf dome. The interior floors of the Capitol are inlaid with white marble and red slate from Connecticut and colored marble from Italy. The stenciling, stained-glass windows and light fixtures were designed by Boston interior decorator William James McPherson.  This beautiful and unique building houses the executive offices and legislative chambers of the state, as well as historical memorabilia including statues of Nathan Hale, “The Genius of Connecticut” and Governor William Buckingham.

How Does Your State Stack Up with Security?

According to a 2007 survey in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. All three have metal detectors, as do Pennsylvania and New Jersey. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, there are metal detectors installed at 23 state Capitols, in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.    All three have metal detectors, as do Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Some State Capitols screen all visitors with the metal detectors, while others such as California exempt state employees and legislators.

According to a CT NewsJunkie.com article, during Governor Malloy’s second inaugural address at the beginning of the legislative session on January 6, 2015, “every Capitol Police officer and security technician was on duty.” No incidents were reported.

In Connecticut, some state employees and all legislators are exempted from screening by the metal detectors.  Rather, they may use their badges to get through the turnstiles or vestibules to get into the building. (Hmmm! Who are the exempted employees and why? Suppose they did this at airports?)

In terms of overall traffic, legislators, staff, and the nearly 150,000 annual visitors  including   more than 25,000 school children visit the State Capitol Complex and our beautiful  “over the top” cherry wood and marble Legislative Office Building.

Since 1999, upgrades have included: installation of cameras and video equipment, a card access system, increase in staffing of capitol state police, implementing a security technician program, installing garage gate arm access and emergency call boxes, implementing an emergency warden program, (i.e. emergency management building personnel knowledgeable about proper procedures),  mandatory staff  intruder drill training and workplace violence training.

It all sounds impressive BUT… in February 6, 2002 it all went wrong! According to a Hartford Courant article, a report with the following information was issued to legislative leaders, but not to the public! ‘Too embarrassing! I was just into my third year as a state employee when this occurred….

  • Police swarmed the state Capitol complex in response to a report of a gunman on a roof;
  • Some employees of the Legislative Office Building weren’t notified the building was being evacuated, and no one made use of a public address system to direct the hundreds of people who were “locked down” inside the Capitol;
  • “Several lapses” in the police response were described as “an uneven enforcement of the lockdown and a lack of communication between police and legislative leaders and staff.”
  • Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Legislative Office Building and detained in the adjacent Capitol in the hours after the legislative session opened Feb. 6th. *** Two women told police they saw a machine-gun toting man on the roof of the office building’s garage.
  • THE TRUTH – It was a videographer with a hand-held camera.   But, it might have been just as they described!
  • Capitol police admitted that an evacuation at the Capitol complex had “not been tried or practiced before,”
  • Joint training sessions were needed to familiarize state and local police with the government complex. A “lack of communication” between all parties could have been eliminated if only they would have made use of use of public address systems, e-mails and a formal chain of contact.
  • Additional problems included:  insufficient radio communication between the police, a SWAT team, armed military police and the “Trooper One” helicopter, which hovered overhead.
  • The primary concerns expressed by employees centered around the evacuation and lockdown procedures…. Workers in the office building library and maintenance workers in the basement were not notified by police that the building was being evacuated. During the Capitol lockdown, when all doors should have been secured some people were seen exiting and leaving the grounds, potentially in the line of fire of a “potential sniper.”
  • Interestingly, as reported by the Hartford Courant, “a search of the garage turned up evidence that police initially thought could be connected to the reported gunman — a “ski-mask type hat” and three vehicles that they considered suspicious. But by 6:30 p.m., the garage was deemed safe. A half-hour later, an attorney contacted state police on behalf of the rooftop cameraman, suggesting a misidentification had occurred.   (What??  An attorney was representing the cameraman in 30 minutes?? LOL How convenient for him!)
  • Children in the on-site day care center for children of state employees remained safe. However, an upgraded phone system with a message light for emergency calls was recommended.
  • To this day, I can attest to any public meeting in the LOB, “a script” concerning emerge procedures is always read at the outset.  And…. To this day, I believe that no one is allowed to park or have access to the upper floor of the LOB garage!

January 10, 2010, in Austin Texas:

  • Twenty–four year old Fausto Cardenas, was identified as the shooter after firing several shots from a small-caliber handgun on the Capitol steps.
  • Although beginning in 2009, visitors to the House and Senate galleries were asked to pass through metal detectors outside the third-floor galleries to watch legislative action in those chambers nothing had been done to secure the entrances to the Capitol.
  • Governor Rick Perry had received endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the Texas State Rifle Association. His response was: “I’m always up for looking at new ways to protect our citizens, but the last thing I want is for the Texas Capitol to turn into DFW Airport.” (So what else is new??)
  • Another incident “may have forced the hand that fed Governor Perry” when in May 2010, another man was arrested for dropping an eight-inch knife on the floor during a committee meeting.
  • According to AR15.com,”Home of the Black Rifle,” as of their post on Friday, May 21, 2010,  Tourists entering the Texas Capitol during the start of the new security procedures thought “metal detectors were a good idea ***until they found out people with concealed handgun permits are not required to surrender their firearms at the door.
  • “People with licenses still can carry guns in the building, so what’s the point? Why are you putting up metal detectors, some people inquired. Just before noon, perhaps only one in 20 people entering the building through the south entrance had to go through the metal detectors. A special line was set up for school groups, people with concealed handgun permits and people with state-issued building passes. A computer is set up for troopers to check the status of handgun permits.”

Does this make any sense to you?  I say, no guns, period in the Capitol except for law enforcement.

Definition- Conceal and Carry law –

Concealed carry or carrying a concealed weapon (CCW) is the practice of carrying a weapon (such as a handgun) in public in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in close proximity. Not all weapons that fall under CCW controls are lethal. For example, in Florida, carrying pepper spray in more than a specified volume (2 oz.) of chemical requires a CCW permit. Whereas, anyone may legally carry a smaller, so-called, “self-defense chemical spray” device hidden on their person without a CCW permit.

Texas Requirements Conceal- Carry Weapons: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/RSD/CHL/faqs/index.htm

  • The Concealed Handgun Law sets out the eligibility criteria that must be met. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age (unless active duty military) and must meet Federal qualifications to purchase a handgun.  A number of factors may make you ineligible to obtain a license, such as: felony convictions and some misdemeanor convictions, including charges that resulted in probation or deferred adjudication; pending criminal charges; chemical or alcohol dependency; certain types of psychological diagnoses protective or restraining orders, and defaults on state or city taxes, governmental fees, or child support.  Eligibility requirements can be found in GC §411.172.You must also submit a completed application, pay the required fees and submit all of the required supplemental forms and materials.

Conclusion:

I suppose we all have our preferences as to what makes us feel most secure based upon our culture, upbringing and experience. However, can we not draw the line and hand over the guns when it comes to our public places of assembly, learning, law making and human civility?

Although we know that humans are not at all civil when it comes to the use of violent crime as a means to “settle differences,” I prefer to think that “a gun in your pocket,” particularly in public places designed for our citizenry to come together as one, is not the path for “the ordinary citizen”, not at all.

 

References: http://ctmirror.org/2014/01/17/sign-of-times-metal-detectors-coming-to-connecticut-capitol/

http://www.cga.ct.gov/capitoltours/

http://www.ct.gov/dmhas/lib/dmhas/legislative/SCPD_Press_Release_1-17-2014_.pdf

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/opening_day_inauguration_test_new_security_measures_at_capitol/

http://www.ehs.washington.edu/fsoemerprep/evacwardduties.shtm

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Perry-rebuffs-call-for-Capitol-metal-detectors-1696334.php

http://www.ar15.com/archive/topic.html?b=8&f=8&t=410900

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concealed_carry_in_the_United_States

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JUSTICE AND ACCOUNTABILITY

IT’S NEVER COME UP BEFORE

WHAT HAS TRANSPIRED IN 32 YEARS?

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WARNING! Just because something is documented on paper…does not necessarily mean that it will be attended to, embraced philosophically or implemented correctly or incorrectly…

Such is the case with Federal Constitutional Rights and state’s rights passed in nearly all 50 states for victims of violent crime. Thirty two years ago, with few crime victims’ rights and very limited victim services, the awareness began after President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, and realized there was no system to care for crime victims. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was created. In 1982, the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime produced a Final Report and 68 recommendations that provided the foundation for victims’ rights and services in years to come; Office for Victims of Crime within the U.S. Department of Justice established in 1983.

The focus was treating victims with dignity and respect, implement their rights under law, and educate the public about the impact of to improve our nation’s law enforcement, criminal justice and community response to offenses that, previously, were considered merely “family matters.” Without the vision and leadership of President Reagan, there would be NO:

  • National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which provided strong incentives to states to raise their minimum drinking age to 21 – the national law today.
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that was established by President Reagan in 1984.
  • Victim/witness programs within all U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
  • National Child Safety Partnership with 26 member organizations to enhance private sector efforts to
  • promote child safety and public awareness of child abuse;
  • Greatly needed public attention and funding to victims of crime in Indian Country.

State of Connecticut Constitution Article XXIX – Rights of Victims of Crime thumbnail

  • In all criminal prosecutions, a victim, as the general assembly may define by law, shall have the following rights:
  • The right to be treated with fairness and respect throughout the criminal justice process;
  • The right to timely disposition of the case following arrest of the accused, provided no right of the accused is abridged;
  • The right to be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process;
  • The right to notification of court proceedings;
  • The right to attend the trial and all other court proceedings the accused has the right to attend, unless such person is to testify and the court determines that such person’s testimony would be materially affected if such person hears other testimony;
  • The right to communicate with the prosecution;
  • The right to object to or support any plea agreement entered into by the accused and the prosecution and to make a statement to the court prior to the acceptance by the court of the plea of guilty or nolo contendere by the accused (i.e. A plea made by the defendant in a criminal action that is substantially but not technically an admission of guilt and subjects the defendant to punishment but permits denial of the alleged facts in other proceedings.);
  • The right to make a statement to the court at sentencing;
  • The right to restitution which shall be enforceable in the same manner as any other cause of action or as otherwise provided by law;
  • The right to information about the arrest, conviction, sentence, imprisonment and release of the accused.

This information would lead one to believe that these rights are well known to the law enforcement community, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys parole board officials and all crime victim advocates….Ladyjustice is here to say… if they know the information…they are NOT being put into practice. What have all of these people been doing for 32 years? As we learned this week, it appears quantitatively and qualitatively… next to nothing… Government judicial agencies have procedures to guide them. The State of  Connecticut has reams of Freedom of Information regulations which prisoners have access to… In fact, our state serves as the model with the distinction of the most complex, “bend over backwards” body in the nation re FOI.

We learned that any documents within a prisoner’s file (or information re the crime victim’s family) housed at the pardons and parole facility or DOC is in fact public information. Rather, some information is “protected” if it is sent to the Office of Victim Services.

Ladyjustice’s family was forced to endure the prisoner’s right to apply for parole, regardless of the heinousness of his felonious crimes and appear before the Board of Pardons and Parole with two to four weeks notice maximum …. Notification is still a blur …[Refer to “Shattered Lives” episode “Parole Hearings – A Prisoner’s Gift, A Crime Victim’s Nightmare” https://donnagore.com/2013/04/14/parole-hearings-a-prisoners-gift-a-crime-victims-nightmare/

Summary of Events Before the Hearing

OMG! Welcome to my Nightmare… What do we do now?

Receipt of Notification by phone and a form letter… a million questions came to mind… Ladyjustice was put on hold many times, as the assigned advocate appeared to be unsure of the answers; Research, research, research In order to prepare, you want to find out details of the inmate’s former crimes and activities, via judicial internet sources. KEEP ASKING QUESTIONS up the chain of command until you receive satisfactory answers and know your rights (Above) Accountability!  WHY?? In the considerable intervening years of incarceration, laws may have chained, memories fade “facts” are really “half truths” etc…

The Reality (Advice) If you get stonewalled and cannot get adequate information, it is vital that you secure the services of an experienced advocate and/or attorney who specializes in crime victim rights. Such a person can truly represent your interests, as “the system” is heavily weighted toward the perpetrator. In our personal experience, you do not have to have a million dollars to get adequate assistance; terms are often workable and reasonable, as the focus is on justice and not attorney-advocate’s fees. If all they discuss is money, look for someone else!

Recommendation:

What we learned that was new:

The nature and seriousness of the crimes while incarcerated and activities of associates (Attempted murder of correction officers, causing a riot , car theft , the number of “tickets” infractions over the years makes one realize how much in the dark the victim’s family really is)…without an intermediary.

Questions that will typically NOT be answered up front: (Even when you are the legal family representative to be notified) Examples: The number and type of programs the perpetrator has completed; Will his family be attending the hearing or the other families which he murdered/harmed? Is he in good health? Does he have family/community support and an “Exit plan”? If released, in what town will he be residing? May I have protection?

WHY NO answers when you are worried and scared when so much is at stake? Sometimes…it’s due to the DOC Commissioner’s philosophy on prisoner confidentiality; or… It’s never been done or asked before!

What Else To Do In Preparation…. Ladyjustice needed help to organize and relay questions to the correct sources as her mind was “scrambled eggs” during the week following notification. If your intermediary cannot obtain all of the answers, formulate a written list that can be presented with your victim impact statement for presentation. There are no guarantees that they will be addressed…but you have to try…

Incredulously, even basic “creature comforts” were not even considered; Perhaps it was an oversight…perhaps it was a function of the geographic location being substandard. But…we realized that it was a function of “It’s Never Come Up Before…” WHAT???

Examples that applied to us: Location of convenient parking? Accessibility for those who are disabled (as a result of the crime or otherwise); prior notification of the building layout, availability of water, tissues, personal escorts from parking to the building, physical comfort of the waiting and hearing rooms; juxtaposition of the prisoner, hearing officers and family.

Ladyjustice with her physical disability had to park and walk three blocks to the building as adequate parking was not available; A relative had to find quarters and leave to feed a parking meter as there was no parking lot designated for family members. One small packet of tissue was placed in the hearing room and passed from person to person; Bring your own water….

Examples of More Substantive Questions Submitted in Writing By Ladyjustice (Still Waiting)

  • Why was he eligible for good time when he attempted to kill correction officers? Was any good time forfeited?
  • Is he earning a salary currently? Can his salary be designated to a crime victim compensation fund?
  • Can you make available videotaping resources for elderly family members or those who are not up to appearing in person in the future?
  • Why can’t crime victim families receive more advanced notice (as compared to the prisoner’s preparation)?
  • How will future changes in good time policies impact this inmate? How has this prisoner been occupying his time for 26 years?
  • If this prisoner is released to the community, what type of protection will be offered to our family?

The Importance of Photos of Your Loved One:

Donald GoreThe parole board has the benefit of a thick file containing the prisoner’s history and activities. They do not have a true picture of the victim, other than the circumstances of the crime. We need to make them come alive for hearing officers and perhaps the perpetrator. As they say, “A picture is worth a thousand words….” And it did truly help in this case… Note: Businesses such as Kinkos-Fed-Ex does wonders with photos needed for such purposes- lightweight, mounted on foam board with easels and reasonably priced. As we could not get clarification on the size of photos allowed, four sizes were made for about $20.00. They were placed strategically – One facing the parole board members and the other facing the TV monitor – the perpetrator and his family.

We could not come with twelve family members with the expectation that all could make a statement. Rather we presented the information as some family will speak, and others are there for support. The board has the ability to “say no” to family regarding “Too many “speaking at the hearing…even 32 years… Incredible! [The legislature sits for hours at public hearings allowing “ordinary citizens to speak on the record].

A Numbers Game…

Quite by accident, Ladyjustice learned that the usual three hearing officers presiding nearly was going to be two as “one dropped out” causing a potential tie when deciding the outcome, forcing the family to return yet again on another day, forsake vacation days from work and more emotional turmoil.

Ladyjustice could not believe that this was not brought to our attention immediately and INSISTED that a third person be located [with more encouragement and input from Atty. Cruz].As it turns out the third person may have voted for release….. but 2 to 1 is better than 1 to 1.

The perpetrator will be in attendance …sort of…. via videotape. It was learned that as a means of saving transportation costs, he would attend via videotape…as well as his family from another location. Ladyjustice feels that this was a mixed blessing as it would feel even more uncomfortable to sit in the same room with the murderer. It was surreal…. We were “watching TV”a very real “reality TV;”

The Key Concern-The Key Accomplishment:

Parole-Board-300x246All crime victims have the constitutional right to be reasonably protected. The perpetrator had an extensive and escalating track record of violent behavior. In fact, the Pardons and Parole Board’s website quotes a major study conducted indicating that such escalation is a strong predictor of further violence in the future.

“History is a strong predictor of future behavior – a pattern of early onset of crime, multiple incarcerations, prior breaches, and criminal versatility is all related to increased likelihood of future crime. Offenders whose crimes increase in severity are of increased concern.”

We were unable to ascertain if the murderer has access to the internet directly or indirectly via “prison pen pal sites” and friends on the outside. Given that this man is extremely dangerous, expressed no true remorse or had no knowledge or interest in the family he severely impacted, we all felt our family and the community was at high risk should he learn our identities. At this juncture, Michelle Cruz, Esquire and former State Constitutional Victim Advocate shone on our behalf…along with the clear objections of Ladyjustice and selected other family members.

The usual method was to enter the hearing room, be required to enter your name on the record, read your impact statement quickly, Hearing officers go into executive session by deciding in a few minutes” shake your hand and …Thank you very much, Goodbye” In fact, thiswasnot to take place. Atty. Cruz and Ladyjustice saw to it by negotiating with the Administrator –Executive Director that our rights had to be considered and we must not be forced to provide our names…. CHANGE BEGINS NOW! An initial compromise was to say our relationship – “widow, eldest child of…” etc. with the caveat that we will have to enter your names on the website.”

NO! Objection, Objection! With more back and forth, back and forth and checking with the Chairman of the Parole Board – (a former police captain in a major city) we would be designated as “Victim #1, #2. ## etc.” Whew!

The incredible part of this scenario was that the victim advocates stated in a matter of fact manner, “This has never come up before” … in 32 years….. Advocates have apparently failed to adequately prepare victims and failed to ensure their safety by statute for all this time…as it has never come up….. WHAT??? Ladyjustice is still trying to process this one day later…. Had we not been pioneers…and made them “sit up and pat attention” before entering the hearing room, LJ shudders to think about the consequences.

Ladyjustice must reiterate that each family member within a unit deals with this situation differently. They are all different in personality, coping styles and tolerance levels. That being said, the majority of members…. “Wanted in over and let’s forget the  details.” Ladyjustice and their legal representative were of the mindset…“We need to know everything in order to be prepared”. We were ready and able to take charge….

And we did!

Highlights and Lowlights of the Hearing

Just as in her Impact statement, Ladyjustice began by “painting a picture of “Images that Will Never Leave.”
The same method will be effective here…

Uncomfortable chairs in a small room lined up against the wall; A big screen TV facing the parole board.
The chairman skillfully “running the show” making the perpetrator accountable for his incredible testimony.
It was an accident. “ (Shooting the victim 4 to 5 times” using a revolver, pulling the trigger each time;

The second murder….” I take responsibility… but I was in New York when it happened. I helped clean it up.”
Why did you kill the victim?
It was stupid” (Ladyjustice- Like crossing the street without looking?)

Witnessing my nearly 80 yea old mother have the strength and fortitude to give a moving statement and then put her face in her hands and cry uncontrollably;

Witnessing other family members break down and re-gain composure to deliver very impressive accounts regarding how the loss had affected each of them;

Witnessing my Mother “crane her neck” to see if there was any hint of reaction from the perpetrator – several
times… There was NONE!

After “executive session” was over hearing denial of parole…until 2018 – five years from now (yet another chance) because of the heinousness of his crimes AND the true impact of our statements!

Hearing Michelle Cruz, thank us for allowing her to be part of the hearing and assisting us.

No…we owe you a debt of gratitude, Michelle!

Law offices of Michelle S. Cruz:

860 415 6529 (MLAW) AttyMichelleSCruz@yahoo.com

Joshua’s Law: A Step Toward Human Dignity


All people experience trials and tribulations in their lives.  Some move through life relatively unscathed with just a blemish or two. Others spend the bulk of their lives immersed in tragedy, while the vast majority of people fall somewhere in between….  It’s bad enough to contend with your problems, foibles and misdeeds following you in life.  However, just imagine when they follow you beyond the grave as well. 

We are not placed on this earth to judge the actions of others, as we, too, could be put under the magnifying glass.  And yet, mainstream journalism and social media does it all the time,

This time, we cannot place blame on the media directly.  Rather, it is a first responder, sworn to protect and serve, who is the culprit.  A police officer who purportedly claimed to “teach a lesson” performed a very disrespectful act.  Ladyjustice thinks that language analyst Peter Hyatt would agree. But let’s back up a bit… and tell the story of the evolution of “Joshua’s Law.”[Information is derived from the New London Day newspaper and the Connecticut Legislative website.]

Robert and Nancy Rogers were notified on Father’s day 2009, that their only son Joshua was dead. Joshua, a 4th generation Connecticut National Guardsman in the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry Regiment, died of a heroin overdose.  He had been their miracle baby, conceived when Nancy was 38 years old.

However, Josh experienced a downward spiral after his grandfather, with whom he was very close, passed away.  He was depressed, experienced panic attacks and began his descent with drugs and several Rehab attempts.  Reportedly, he had been training to deploy to Afghanistan just prior to his untimely death in a hotel.  Josh struggled to stay away from his former drug partners.  In the end ,he succumbed, lying to his mother that he was going out for coffee with a friend on that final day in June, ‘Such a sad and all too common tale…

If you will, fast forward with this writer to the death notification…  Two weeks after the official notification, the Rogers received a second visit, this time from the newly appointed police chief, Margaret Ackley.  Ackley related that one of her officers had taken cell phone pictures of her dead son and texted them to several people!  Josh’s mother, Nancy, was incredulous, saying, “It was like I was hearing her, but I really wasn’t.” Robert, Josh’s father, was steadfast in his belief that “although Joshua had a demon (heroin addiction,) he deserved more respect than what he got.”  [LJ- Indeed!]

Captain Ackley promised to take swift action and fired officer Jeffrey Nichols on July 13, 2009.  To add insult to injury, the Rogers learned on Joshua’s birthday that the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration actually re-instated Nichols, as they deemed the firing “too extreme.”    Officer Nichols language in context appears to Ladyjustice to be flippant – “This is my dead body of the day,” as if it is a source of amusement followed by the comment, “This is what happens when you overdose.”  How could Officer Nichols have thought that such an action would not be extremely hurtful and punishing to all concerned? 

The Rogers were stunned beyond comprehension with the police officer’s reinstatement and wondered how the Board members would feel if the roles were reversed. 

The real issue for Joshua’s grieving parents was respect, or lack thereof… regardless of the circumstances of his death.  They felt that the drug usage had unduly influenced the Board’s decision.  Subsequently, they filed a lawsuit against the City of New London (assisted by experts from http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org/xarelto-lawsuits/) for invasion of privacy and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Nancy Rogers regrets her final interaction with her son, but she takes comfort in the fact that Josh was so committed to his military training and, in fact, loved basic training.  The deepest pain experienced by this family was that the dignity of Josh’s final hours was taken away.  Their goal was to retrieve that respect and dignity in a small but significant way, legislatively, such that others would not suffer the same fate.  Specifically, they sought to obtain assistance in crafting a law preventing emergency officials from using their personal cell phones to take photos of a crime scene or accident and then transmitting them to private individuals.  Two years later, the Connecticut legislature paved the way for the eventual Public Act 11-47:  This bill had 27 co-sponsors and took effect October 1, 2011.

 

Substitute Senate Bill No. 1099

Public Act No. 11-47

AN ACT CONCERNING THE UNAUTHORIZED TAKING OR TRANSMISSION BY FIRST RESPONDERS OF IMAGES OF CRIME OR ACCIDENT VICTIMS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2011) Any peace officer or firefighter, as those terms are defined in section 53a-3 of the general statutes, or any ambulance driver, emergency medical responder, emergency medical technician or paramedic, as those terms are defined in section 19a-175 of the general statutes, who responds to a request to provide medical or other assistance to a person and, other than in the performance of his or her duties, knowingly (1) takes a photographic or digital image of such person without the consent of such person or a member of such person’s immediate family, or (2) transmits, disseminates or otherwise makes available to a third person a photographic or digital image of such person without the consent of such person or a member of such person’s immediate family, shall be fined not more than two thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

Approved June 13, 2011

Michele Cruz, State Victim Advocate for the Office of the Victim Advocate supported this bill citing the need for respect and fair treatment throughout the criminal justice process.   She urged the legislators to consider the definition of “first responder” to include “all who presumptively may show up at the scene and render assistance.”

Joshua would have been proud… As for Officer Jeffrey Nichols, at least he can no longer “get his kicks “from the misfortune of others in the same way.  Shame on you Jeff Nichols! 

[Ladyjustice believes that this may be one of the very few states to enact such legislation and not to be confused with “Joshua’s Law “in the State of Georgia concerning driver’s education requirements.]

Respectfully Written,

Donna/”Ladyjustice”

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Landmark Domestic Violence Legislation: Tracey Thurman vs. Torrington, CT Is There a Downside?

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*photo via Pinterest


Who would have thought that two Connecticut cities would be prominently known by the eyes of the world for horrific crime and subsequent landmark legislation?  Virtually everyone has heard of the sleepy affluent town of Cheshire that will forever be known as the former home of Dr. William Petit, Jr. and his now deceased immediate family.

[LJ note:  To be totally accurate, the Petit family siblings grew up in a small blue collar town known as Plainville, and is far from affluent as towns go…] 

 However, the “other city” that put Connecticut on the map as the “Domestic violence capital of Southern New England” is Torrington, CT.  Torrington is also a very blue collar town and has its roots in the Algonquin family Indian tribe 10,000 years ago and… became a thriving mill town situated on the Naugatuck River and was an integral part of the Naugatuck Valley Railroad.  In the mid 19th century, Torrington was producing a vast array of metal products including needles, brass, ice skates, hardware, bicycles, and tacks. 

Hard working stiffs from the mills were the status quo. Today some manufacturing still exists, but the entrepreneurial endeavors are different with several health care entities and a precision golf corporation as major companies.  Big deal you say…..  Well, maybe.  

However, in the early ‘80s this blue collar town still had its share of people who may labor hard by day….but drink hard and beat others by night just as any locality …. 

The case Ladyjustice is referring to is the Tracey Thurman case.

Tracey was an attractive impressionable motel maid who succumbed to the supposed charms of laborer, Charles “Buck” Thurman.  This man was the poster boy for everything that is wrong with “the system” particularly as it relates to law enforcement, repeated threats and violent physical abuse.

Tracey tried to file complaints against her husband but city officials ignored her.

Even when her husband was finally arrested after attacking her in full view of a policeman and after a judge issued an order prohibiting him to go to his wife’s home, the police continued to ignore Thurman’s pleas for help. Her husband violated the order and came to her house and threatened her. When she asked the police to arrest him for violating his probation and threatening her life, they ignored her yet again.  She obtained a restraining order against Buck whom he violated, but again the police failed to take any action.

The absolute helplessness and futility felt by Tracey was unconscionable, inconceivable, as she “did everything right” (at the time) and was ignored by those sworn to protect.   This monster got away with his brutality time after time after time… 

 But… on June 10th, 1983, Buck assaulted Tracy for the last time. 

Buck Thurman stabbed Tracey thirteen times in the chest, neck, shoulders, and face, which occurred ten minutes AFTER she called the Torrington Police. 

He kicked her in the head with a booted foot, snatched up their two-year-old, told the child, “I’ve killed your rotten mother,” and left her lying in a pool of blood. It took twenty-five minutes for the police to arrive. Amazingly, Tracy did not die, but the damage was extensive and beyond belief, as was her will to survive! 

As reported by the Domestic Violence Examiner in July 2010, Tracey spent seven months in the hospital. Although the left side of her body was able to function, she had no tactile sensation. The right side of her body retained tactile sensation, but she had lost 80% of her motor skills.   

It goes without saying….. Ladyjustice sounds like a broken record, just like her ”teacher” Susan Murphy Milano, had the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, means to make a video tape and other safeguards been available and in use….. Tracey might have had a chance at being a healthy woman … and Torrington would not be forever hanging its proverbial head in shame! 

What makes this case so atypical is that Tracey had good legal advice and the courage to do something that no one else had ever done…. 

In 1984, Tracey Thurman sued the City of Torrington, Connecticut, and 24 of its police officers for their failure to arrest her violent and estranged husband, Charles “Buck” Thurman. 

In her legal suit, Tracey claimed a violation of her constitutional rights, as set forth in various constitutional amendments, but mainly the Fourteenth.  The Fourteenth Amendment states, in part, “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Tracey Thurman alleged that by following a policy of not arresting abusive husbands or boyfriends, Torrington police failed to provide the same protection for abused wives and children as they provided for victims of similar assaults outside a domestic relationship.
 

*** In a landmark decision the court agreed, ruling that officers could indeed be held accountable for violating the rights of battered women. 

The court awarded Tracey Thurman $2.3 million in compensatory damages.  Shortly after this court decision, the Connecticut legislature adopted a more comprehensive domestic violence law. In the twelve months after the new law took effect, the number of domestic violence assaults reported increased by 92 percent!  (In the first 12 months following the new law, arrests for domestic assaults doubled from 12,400 arrests to 23,830. 

As reported in DV –The Laws and the Courts-Landmark Legal Decisions,

In Thurman v. City of Torrington (1984), the U.S. District Court for Downstate Connecticut agreed, stating:

City officials and police officers are under an affirmative duty to preserve law and order, and to protect the personal safety of persons in the community. This duty applies equally to women whose personal safety is threatened by individuals with whom they have or have had a domestic relationship as well as to all other persons whose personal safety is threatened, including women not involved in domestic relationships. If officials have notice of the possibility of attacks on women in domestic relationships or other persons, they are under an affirmative duty to take reasonable measures to protect the personal safety of such persons in the community.

[A] police officer may not knowingly refrain from interference in such violence, and may not automatically decline to make an arrest simply because the assailant and his victim are married to each other. Such inaction on the part of the officer is a denial of the equal protection of the laws.

For the federal district court, there could be little question that “such inaction on the part of the officers was a denial of the equal protection of the laws.” The police could not claim that they were promoting domestic harmony by refraining from interference in a marital dispute because research had conclusively demonstrated that police inaction supports the continuance of violence. There could be no question, the court concluded, that the city of Torrington, through its police department, had “condoned a pattern or practice of affording inadequate protection or no protection at all, to women who complained of having been abused by their husbands or others with whom they have had close relations.” The police had, therefore, failed in their duty to protect Tracey Thurman and deserved to be sued.

This blogger could comment endlessly on the failures of the police, the culture that allowed it to happen, the pieces of paper called “orders of protection “that are not worth the paper upon which  they are written, and the needless suffering, trauma  and near fatal injuries suffered by Tracey.  The fact that the court, in its wisdom under the Fourteenth Amendment opened the door to “a little piece of justice” and lambasted the incompetent, ignorant, and seemingly blind police force is still somehow little consolation for this woman and her family in LJ’s opinion.  Money can help, but the scars, lifelong trauma and terror and toll on the human body and soul can never be compensated for!

Update 2011:  The Pendulum Has Swung Far and Wide:

One of Ladyjustice’s favorite editorial writers, the Hartford Courant’s Helen Ubanis, recently wrote a piece about this topic.  The article dealt specifically with the fact that Connecticut leads the nation in the number of dual arrests as it pertains to domestic violence.  

For illustrative purposes, Helen told the story of “Dawn” who was brutalized by her husband last February. She saw her opportunity.  As the children were nearby sledding, she was cornered by her car. She had never called the police on him before, but it was now or never. In addition to being badly bruised, she thought he had fractured her kneecap and shoulder as he pushed her to the ground.

Her husband didn’t have a scratch on him.  He told police “Dawn was preventing him from leaving.”  Dawn was shocked that winter day when the police later arrested them both.  Under Connecticut’s mandatory arrest law, if the police find evidence, they must make an arrest.

Connecticut currently has the highest incidence of dual arrests in the country pertaining to the arrest of both the accuser and accused under this law. Data from the year 200 showed that most arrests were for reasons other than assaults.  In 2007, 20% of the domestic violence cases revealed dual arrests.  In 2009, that figure rose to nearly 50%.  Comparatively speaking, the rest of the U.S. arrests both parties in less than 2% of the DV cases. 

Before one jumps to conclusions, the data may mislead based upon Connecticut’s “broader definition of domestic partner,” underreporting, and not reporting arrests at all or those states that have “less stringent laws.”

Connecticut’s interim Executive Director of Coalition for Domestic Violence, Karen Jarmoc reported that this matter has been troubling for a long time.  In 2011 the legislature created a task force to examine the family violence statute and dual arrests. 

Some police chiefs state that clearly, 30 years ago, officers weren’t doing enough, However, some believe they may now be “doing too much.”   What is the solution?

Michael Lawlor, former legislator and now Connecticut’s undersecretary of justice policy and planning for the Office for Policy and Management, thinks it’s difficult top write a statute forcing police officers to do exactly what you want them to do “without unintended consequences.” Lawlor goes on to say that pointing the spotlight at a problem begins to change behavior and that perhaps some police agencies “don’t yet appreciate dual arrests.”

And now, back to Dawn’s Case….

Two weeks after she was beaten by her husband, her breach of peace charge was dropped. The experience made a lasting impression on her.  Her sentiments are those of thousands of women….  She said, “It’s difficult enough to deal with the physical and emotional effects of having to fight to protect yourself from the person who hurt you.  But to also have to fight the system that’s supposed to protect you is too much.  It’s why so many women back off.”

The jury is still out regarding what the solution might be specifically concerning the issue of dual arrests.   However, Ladyjustice has the perfect solution when speaking of the broader issue at hand.  Our own Jane Wayne – Susan Murphy Milano’s Time’s Up “roadmap” which can be tailor made to fit each individual’s situation. We need you more than ever in Connecticut!   Help, please!!!

Incidentally, for those who want to re-live the story of Tracey Thurman’s former horrific existence, a TV movie was crafted after the landmark case called, “A Cry for Help”.  As this writer recalls, the production was less than stellar.  However, Nancy McKeon is a very talented actress and did a wonderful job in her portrayal.

It was recently viewed by Ladyjustice on YouTube.  However, lo and behold, it has recently been pulled by CBS for “numerous third party copyright infringements.”   Perhaps Netfix might have it.

Here’s a bit more detail…

Tracey Thurman was a real-life Connecticut housewife who, throughout her marriage, suffered horrendous abuse at the hands of her husband. The beatings culminate in a single bloody night when Buck Thurman stabs his estranged wife 13 times. She survives–barely–and Buck is arrested. Having failed to get proper protection from the local police force, Tracey successfully sued the officers in 1989. The long-range result was the Thurman Law, which called for mandatory arrests in wife-beating cases in Connecticut and several other states. Nancy McKeon, who plays Tracey Thurman in A Cry for Help, starred in the film in the hope that it would prevent Buck Thurman’s early release from prison.

 

 A Cry For Help: The Tracy Thurman Story first aired on October 2, 1989; Thurman was scheduled for release in 1991. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

 

 

Ladyjustice is unsure of the status of Buck Thurman today…. And that is a very scary thought!

Regardless if you view this film or not, do buy a copy of Susan Murphy Milano’s “Time’s Up” book from Amazon or her website – www.susanmurphymilano.com. It’ll be the best investment ever made, particularly if you are another woman like Dawn….

And… 

To read about other key domestic violence cases resulting in landmark legislation go to the following link: 

Domestic Violence—The Laws and the Courts – Landmark Legal Decisions” target=”_blank”><a href=”http://www.libraryindex.com/pages/2074/Domestic-Violence-Laws-Courts-LANDMARK-LEGAL-DECISIONS.html”>Domestic Violence—The Laws and the Courts – Landmark Legal Decisions</a>


Until Next Time, 

Keep Faith and Hope in Your Heart, 

LadyJustice