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

 

justice-2071539_960_720

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

You can find me here, please follow or friend! Facebook,  Shattered Lives,  Twitter, LinkedIn

Advertisements

Death Row Inmates: As Crime Victims Do We Care?

Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice,Death Row

As a survivor of homicide with 30 years of experience in crime victim issues, Ladyjustice uses integrity and compassion everyday in the performance of her job and full time advocate for many people who are oppressed or forgotten.  However, does this compassion extend to death row?  At this writing, LJ has to say probably not….unless it is definitively proven that the prisoner has been wrongfully convicted to this “special class” called death row.  And another thing….  Why should we have any compassion for any murders in the first place?  Although this topic continues to be widely debated with no clear cut answers, this blogger choses to focus on accommodations of death row in selected states and some of the forces that contribute to the status quo.

We begin with an interesting set of facts regarding the debate and actual demographics of death row inmates, compliments of: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/.

(Within the telling graph below, the 1977 average time between conviction and the number of months to be executed was a little over 4 years, compared to the 2009 average of 169 months or 14+ years).  What does that say about justice and the times in which we live?  Read on, bloggers…

 

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

The Debate: When the constitution was written, the time between sentencing and execution could be measured in days or weeks.

A century later, the Supreme Court noted that long delays between sentencing and execution, compounded by a prisoner’s uncertainty over time of execution, could be agonizing, and resulting in “horrible feelings” and “immense mental anxiety amounting to a great increase in the offender’s punishment.” (In re Medley, 1890, as cited in Foster v. Florida, 2002).

But in the wake of the Supreme Court-mandated suspension of the death penalty from 1972 to 1976, numerous reforms have been introduced to create a less arbitrary system. This has resulted in lengthier appeals, as mandatory sentencing reviews have become the norm, and continual changes in laws and technology have necessitated re-examination of individual sentences.

Death-penalty proponents and opponents alike say such careful review is imperative when the stakes are life and death. “People are adamant . . . that every avenue should be exhausted to make sure there is no chance (the condemned) is not guilty,” former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers said in 2001. “The surer you are, the slower you move.” (Atlanta Constitution, October 27, 2001).

The years it takes to carry out a death sentence exact a huge toll – on taxpayers, victims’ families and inmates themselves. Yet without thorough appeals, mistakes in death penalty cases would be missed.

The Intensity of the Debate increased a thousand fold in Connecticut with the case of Michael Ross

[LJ has the distinct honor to know personally  some of the crime victim families associated with the many victims of  serial murderer Michael Ross through  her association with Survivors of Homicide Inc.] 

Michael Ross was executed in Connecticut on May 13, 2005. He was found competent and waived his appeals.

Michael Ross was about an hour away from becoming the first inmate executed in New England in 45 years when his lethal injection was abruptly put on hold in 2005. Ross had waived his appeals and accepted his execution. But his former public defenders, along with a death-row expert and a former prison official, raised serious doubts about whether he was competent to make such decisions, or whether despair over his living conditions on death row had caused him to become mentally unhinged – perhaps suffering from death row syndrome.  [There’s that phrase again….  Bloggers, please go to Susan Murphy Milano’s journal and read about others claiming to be unhinged after this blog at: http://murphymilanojournal.blogspot.com/2011/08/precious-life-of-maureen-allaben-and.html]

Ross had attempted suicide three times while in prison, writing after the last attempt of the isolation he felt sitting in a cell 23 hours a day, thinking of his crimes and his impending lethal injection. He once admitted that he was seeking his execution largely because of “a desire to end my own pain.”

2009 Demographics of Death Row Inmates

(According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics: Capital Punishment)

  • 56.1% of the death row population is White;
  • 41.5% is Black and 2.4% is of another race;
  • Men on death row make up 98.1%, while women make up 1.9%;
  • The median education level of death row inmates is 12th grade.
  • Of death row inmates, 54.7% have never married, 20.5% are divorced or separated, 21.9% are currently married and 2.8% are widowed.
  • 8.6% of inmates had a prior homicide conviction.
  • 65.7% had prior felony convictions.
  • Among all inmates under sentence of death, half were age 20 to 29 at the time of arrest; 11% were age 19 or younger; and fewer than 1% were age 55 or older.
  • The average age at time of arrest was 28 years.
  • As of 12/31/09, 29.1% of all inmates were age 30 to 39 and 51% were age 25 to 44. 1.2% of inmates are under the age of 25, and 2.6% are older than 65.
  • 7,773 people have been sentenced to death from 1977 until 2009.

[Ladyjustice finds it very curious that over 50 % of death row inmates have never married.  What does that say about men’s attempts at intimate partner relationships as they build up anger and resentment?  They keep trying and fail at relationships with men and women, to say nothing of the intimate partner homicides of those with marriage licenses.   In addition, it is very clear that you don’t wind up on death row as a first time offender.  These are seasoned criminals….]

Should you be a fan of Hear Women Talk, radio shows,  Vicki Childs and Carol Baker  featured a lively debate (11-28-2011) on all sides of the issue with guests Paul Peterson, Paul Henderson, and Richard Dieter.  Particular facts that were illuminated for Ladyjustice were:

  • One expert’s opinion regarding the most prevalent reasons for wrongful convictions is: wrongful identifications and misconduct of police and overzealous prosecutors.
  • The “old adage” that the data can say anything you want it to was exemplified during this show when another expert related that 138 people were freed from death row -17 of which were proven via DNA analysis since the 1970’s as a result of a landmark case known as “Furman vs. Georgia.”  No…. wait..  data regarding Barry Scheck’s Innocent Project showed that 5 people were exonerated from receiving the death penalty.
  • But, but… the DNA exonerations by the Innocence Project are not related to murder cases…
  • And… the biggest controversy arose between experts when the discussion turned to those exonerated versus those having the charges dropped due to wrongful prosecutions.
  • In the end, some experts on Ms. Child’s show agree that it may be “okay to ratchet down the system” (i.e. abolish death row) in favor of saving  those innocent of the charge [Notice LJ did not say “innocent people’] and saving money!

Who knows what the answer is? However, it is obvious that we can no longer afford the delays for the sake of crime victim families. We can’t locate adequate legal representation in sufficient numbers for prisoners; nor can we afford  death row accommodations as things stand.

A Review of Selected States: 

According to a report from the Office of Legislative Research in Connecticut whose job it is to acquaint state legislators of the issues via research on topics of inquiry, death Row inmates and conditions were reported on as of April 2011 as follows:

1)      Connecticut:  In Connecticut there are 10 inmates on Death Row.  Michael Ross was the last execution in 2005…and the political winds are such that those remaining will be a resident for years to come….

  • The longest serving prisoner is Robert Brenton, first sentenced in 1989 , convicted of beating and stabbing his ex-wife Jo-Ann and their 16 year old son.
  • The most recent addition to death row is Steven Hayes, convicted December 2, 2010 of the Cheshire home invasion and vicious murders of Jennifer Hawke Petit and her two daughters, Hayley and Michalea. The second trial for accused murder Joshua Komisarjevsky begins this month.
  • Six of the ten inmates have not yet completed the initial appellate review by the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Four have completed their appeals through the State and U.S. Supreme Courts resulting in denials.  All four filed habeas corpus (unlawful incarceration) petitions.

Actual Death Row Conditions (Example: State of Connecticut)

[LJ- For those who exhibit compliant non-violent behavior]

The Department of Corrections requires that:

1)      Death row inmates spend 22 hours a day in their cells;

2)      DR inmates are not permitted any congregate activity;

3)      DR inmates are always alone- in isolation except when escorted;

4)      DR inmates are escorted by at least one staff while in restraints when moving outside their cell;

5)      DR inmates are allowed two hours of recreation outside their cells six days per week.  This time can be spent indoors including the law library with use of the phone or a “caged courtyard” outside;

6)      DR inmates are permitted to access the commissary but with greater restrictions as compared to other inmates;

7)      DR inmates may partake in selected religious, educational, social or counseling services by court decree and DOC management /supervision;

8)      Any work assignment is restricted to the death row housing units.  Prisoners must be secured in their assigned area until the task is completed.            [ LJ-  Note that other states do not permit work assignments on death row – Read on…];

9)      DR inmates are allowed three one hour “non-contact” visits per week.

Accommodations: Cells:

The Department of Corrections stipulates that all cells must be well ventilated, sanitary, appropriately heated and adequately lighted.  They are “equipped” with a bed and furnished consistent with the general population cells. (? Sink and toilet)

Searches:

Searches are conducted on an irregular schedule at least every 15 minutes by regular staff.  Death row prisoners are visited by custody supervisors once per shift.  Calls are inspected at least twice a week by the unit administrator.

Property:

Clothing that is “not degrading” is provided, the same as the general population.[LJ- I have never seen a degrading orange or beige jumpsuit in my life!]  DR inmates can have basic personal items in their cell [LJ- Assume nothing that they can make into a shank, of course!] 

Movement and Restraints:

DR inmates are handcuffed behind the back for routine out of cell movement such as : showers, phone calls, visits, recreation. Once the inmate is secured in the area, restraints

are removed and vice versa.  DR inmates are fully restricted in front for “professional visits” including attorneys, medical, mental health visits and video conferencing.  Such restraints include handcuffs, leg irons and a tether chain. DR inmates are fully restrained behind the back  for out of unit movement within the facility.

Food:

DR inmates receive “the same quality and type of food” as the general population within their cells. Should inmates use food or food service in a hazardous or inappropriate manner, an alternate meal service is used.

More Selected States:

2)      Illinois: As of July 1,2011, Illinois’ death row was officially “null and void.”  A state law abolishing the death penalty as Governor Pat Quinn commuted the sentences of 15 men to life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Fourteen are now in maximum security prisons.  One inmate in is a medium security prison with a mental health facility. In prior years from 1977 to 1999 when the death penalty was reinstated, 12 men were executed.  The super max prison known as Tamms in southern Illinois is the most restrictive, while the former death row prison in Pontiac, southwest of Chicago is now a step-down transitional prison.

3)      California:  Dave Mann, journalist for the Texas Observer reported in June 2010 that the nation’s first super max facility in which inmates are kept in long term solitary was built in 1989, opening its Pelican Bay facility.  Forty other states and the federal government followed suit with super max facilities or special segregation units.

  • As of 2009. At any given time, there are between 25-100,000 prisoners serving time in permanent or temporary solitary confinement … and this continues to increase.
  •  As of June 2011,California has 714 inmates on death row.
  •  A new study showing how much the death penalty costs taxpayers revealed that since 1975 and the reinstatement of capital punishment by then first time Governor Jerry Brown, 13 people were executed at a cost of $308 million each.

Executive Director of Death Penalty Focus, Jeanne Woodward (a former San Quentin warden) stated that the study reveals that the state of California can no longer afford executions and that if death sentences were altered to life without the possibility of parole, they would save a billion dollars in five years.

Although a bill was introduced to ban the death penalty in the legislature recently, it would also have to pass the ballot box. Legislators say the status quo isn’t tough on crime, it’s tough on taxpayers.

  • According to an LA Times article in November 2009, the California Supreme court was/is so overburdened with cases, it takes 2 to 2.5 years to file all briefs in preparation for oral arguments;
  • For prisoners sentenced since 1978, after automatic appeals have been decided, the average delay, “the judgment of death” and the filing of a California Supreme Court opinion was 8.1 years.
  • Delays between the appointment of counsel and filing the initial brief were 3.7 years.  However, due to the scarcity of available attorneys, it was more like 11 years!.
  • The average delay between the judgment of death and oral argument before the Supreme Court was 7.6 years.
  • Again, as of 2009, a study conducted by Senior Judge Arthur Alcaron stated that an average cost per death row inmate per year was $124,150 (which was more than $90,000 more than those housed in the general population.)

4)      Florida:  As described in a St. Petersburg Times article, September 4, 2011, a Florida inmate on death row named Ronald Clark fancies himself a poet-writer and has a blog through the support of Dina Milito, a  California mother.  She and her  engineer husband set up the blog via Death Row Support as  “a means to express himself, as Dina doesn’t believe in capital punishment.”  [LJ -How very thoughtful of you Dina,  while those murdered by Clark are silenced forever!] 

  • Clark is one of 397 prisoners on Florida’s death row within a 63 square foot cell.
  • Clark was found guilty of two vicious murders involving repeatedly shooting one victim in the head with a shotgun, tying concrete blocks to his body and dumping the first victim in a river.
  • With his initial murder years earlier, he reloaded his gun, shot him in the mouth, rolled his body in a ditch and took his cash and boots;
  • Currently, three death row inmates blog in Florida, as there are no laws or rules prohibiting it as long as they aren’t paid or seeking a pen pal.  The Corrections secretary, Edwin Buss, who recently resigned, is incredulous that this inmate could have a blog. [LJ Ditto!] Buss stated that false accusations are being made on the internet and that there is no practical way in which they can adequately monitor the thousands of pieces of mail received and content somehow reaching the internet via friends.
  • As of August 15, 2011,   an assistant warden deemed Clark’s blogs via Death Row Poet as a security risk…..  And yet, his indictments of the prison system and grievances continue… until the Governor signs his death warrant (Clark’s words).

5)       Texas:  As of November 2010, a Texas Observer article entitled ‘Solitary Men” reported there were more than 300 inmates on death row in Texas.

  • Accordingly, Texas was rated as “probably the most inhumane,” in which prolonged isolation 22 ours per day of confinement in 60 square foot cells is the norm;
  • An incident on Thanksgiving Day, 1998 in which seven condemned men suspected of planning their escape during work detail at the Ellis Unit, outside of Huntsville resulted in revocation of all work and recreational privileges.
  • Texas is one of two states that allow no television (along with Oklahoma) and one of eleven states disallowing contact visits.
  • Other than the recreation cage, they spend 158 hours per week , 8,216 hours per year or 94% of their lives in prolonged isolation.

 Point –Counterpoint 

Supporters of the abolition of the death penalty say that such isolation can exacerbate mental illness. Numerous studies report the increased expense and the fact that no real reduction in violence negates the value of death row.  Supreme Court Justice Breyer noted, “astonishingly long delays experienced by inmates were largely the result not of frivolous appeals, but constitutionally defective death penalty procedure.”

Justice Clarence Thomas offered a different opinion commenting on the same 32 year delay in a particular case: “The cruelty of the murder for which the defendant was sentenced to death, he asserted, was caused by the defendant, as the perpetrator of the crime.”

Terminating Thoughts from Ladyjustice….

So… what should be our parting words on this topic?  Do we care about death row inmates, regardless of environmental conditions and state statutes? Should we follow the moral principle of humane  treatment even for the worst of the worst murderers?  That, my dear bloggers is for you to decide individually, and not for Ladyjustice to dictate.  I invite you to comment!

The Part II Seven (Wonder)fuls of the World: In Life…and as it pertains to the Justice System

 

courthouse-3613_640

When  the justice system fails miserably, people of courage make it right!

In Life: Sharing your most trying experiences with others will set you free of  shouldering the burden alone and could change other’s lives in the future.

Regardless of the nature of your problem, even if you are a private person by nature;  seeking out an objective person to hear you out and to offer advice may be your best medicine toward healing.   The chosen one should  not your “best girlfriend,” as she will often tell you what you want to hear and say whatever to avoid conflict and hurt feelings.   Rather, find an educated person who has training, common sense  and experience in the problem area with which you are dealing.  You may come to realize that the power of relating your experience has long-term benefits for you and others, as you feel more comfortable sharing in an effort to help others.

In the Justice System: When an everyday citizen becomes a victim of crime, very frequently they become “double victimized” by the various entities and layers of bureaucracy designed to assist them.  Throw the roadmap out the window…  In fact, there is no standard roadmap to cling to, as every case and geographical jurisdiction handles cases somewhat differently.  As you become victimized again by the system, your losses  and the number of problems multiply. Grief and anger weaken your resolve, and your ability to comprehend and tolerate “your new reality.”

However, with time, support (and progress and resolution of your crime, hopefully),  many crime victims become “consummate survivors” (Such as LadyJustice and many others…).  We chose to  use the grief, anger and disillusionment that still exists for the benefit of new victims to come.

One of the most dramatic and effective examples occurred  in mid October, 2011. Intimate partner violence survivor, Claudine Dombrowski, courageously shared her story with the world after 16 years of  unspeakable abuse.  Claudine also discovered that the prosecutor for the City of Topeka was ready to decriminalize intimate partner violence to the misdemeanor level, on par with parking tickets!    Can you imagine the consequences and the utter disrespect for the lives of vulnerable women?   Luckily, she shared this information with Susan Murphy Milano, Imagine Publicity and other consultants who exposed the terrible injustice….  Collaboratively,  Claudine and  all parties worked strategically  to make change but fast!  Lo and behold… Claudine and her team of advocates put pressure on the “deranged prosecutor” who was  “only trying to make budget cuts.”  ‘Next thing ya’ know, LadyJustice  was watching Brian Williams, NBC Anchor, report on Claudine’s efforts to change the tide in the name of justice and future domestic violence victims!  Many other stations followed suit.  Indeed, there was a reversal!

To view video news report of Claudine go to:     The Lights Went Out in Topeka

In Life: When you notice that an important personal need, which also affects others is unmet, meet it! Start your own grass-roots organization.  Americans are hungry, without housing, without employment.  The elderly is subsisting on nothing and viewed as the “disposable generation.”   Young people are bullied for their differences and are committing suicide.  Child sexual abuse is rampant. Homicide is now a household word.  Shall I continue??

Government agencies cut benefits, entitlement programs and human service needs are relegated to the back burner.  Bad things are happening.   Few , if any, corporations continue to consistently demonstrate civic responsibility.  They are more focused on making money and growing already inflated pensions.

Starting your own non-profit begins with just one person at your kitchen table or in your living room.  Sure it’s harder in the current economy.  However, this should not deter you from meeting the need!  Or, if creating your own organization seems too overwhelming, there are alternatives. Check out:http://managementhelp.org/startingorganizations/start-nonprofit.htm

In the Justice System: People who have risen to the occasion and met the need to correct the multitude of injustices.  They have passed legislation and formed organizations.  They depend on grant monies and public donations.  The brand of justice doesn’t matter.  It’s the fact that they exist.  Some of Ladyjustice’s favorites include:

Billy’s Law: The legislation helps to streamline the reporting process for law enforcement and medical examiners by connecting two major federal missing persons and unidentified remains databases- the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the NamUs.  Connecting these databases makes them more comprehensive and more likely to lead to a match between a missing person and unidentified human remains.

“Billy’s Law” also creates an incentive grants program to coroners, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to help facilitate the reporting of missing persons and unidentified remains to the federal databases. Grants can also be used for training programs on how to correctly use the databases and best handle these cases, and the recipients of these grants must provide a dollar in matching funds for every two dollars in federal funds.

PFLAG: Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays:  Nation wide  organization with local chapters to provide support, provide education and advocate against discrimination for persons s who identify as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgendered;

True Colors.org– True Colors is a non-profit organization that works with other social service agencies, schools, organizations, and within communities to ensure that the needs of sexual and gender minority youth are both recognized and competently met. The organization trains more than 2400 people annually, organizes the largest LGBT youth conference in the country with more than 2000 attendees and manages the state of Connecticut’s  only LGBT mentoring program.

Petit Family Foundation; In memory of Jennifer, Hayley and  Michalea. The  PETIT FAMILY FOUNDATION continues to raise and distribute funds to fulfill our mission to help educate young people especially those with interests in science, to help support those with chronic illnesses, and to help protect those affected by violence.

Voices of September 11th: Provides information, support, sponsors commemorations and promotes public policy at the highest levels of government; to prevent and prepare for terroristic events.

In Life: Take it to the next level….  Don’t stand idly by and say that,  “My work is done after  accomplishing  “X”.  So, you’ve solved your problem to your satisfaction …and you’ve assisted others too.  That is truly wonderful.  Often there is no one willing to take over the reins.  You need a new challenge.  You are tiring of your weekly trips to the food bank or the shelter with clothing.  You will revitalize your spirit  if you add something to the mix.  Start a coat drive  or bake healthy cookies for undernourished kids at school!  Whatever!

In the Justice System: The  same applies for justice issues….  Marry Fetchet of Voices for September 11th brought her organization of support for victims out of her living room and into the national spotlight, forcing the President to form an investigative commission and subsequently created a stellar organization.

Daniel Hernandez Jr. not only graduated from the Upward Bound Program in Arizona, he also became an intern for Representative Gabrielle Giffords and saved her life during the mass murder spree!

Susan Murphy Milano  went through hell and back to valiantly  keep her mother and herself alive against her abusive and cowardly  cop father for years! She has taken it to the next level for over 20 years, empowering and facilitating others to save their lives using her many skills, resources, publicity and people power methods!

In Life: Pass on the torch when it is time…    This is easier said than done. We are working at something important to our identity…or perhaps out of necessity because of financial reasons.  However, I don’t care what it is… If you can’t provide good customer service; if  your people skills are stuck on “whine and complain,” give it up!  If you have the foresight to see it coming, engage others to take over, interview the best candidates and give up the control .   (Although an icon for his time, how long did Frank Sinatra hang on crooning his ballads just a bit off-tune?)

In the Justice System: Human service providers are big on allowing others to suck the life out of them! Crime victim services and criminal justice is no different .  LadyJustice has been there several times….  Compassion fatigue!  You get burned out… You get cynical … You don’t trust anyone or anything anymore.  BURN OUT, WILL ROBINSON!

But it is truly wonderful and a blessed thing when you recognize it before you do too much damage.  Time to re-invent yourself!  Yeah, that’s just what Ladyjustice is doing!  So, listen up employers!

 

The Legacy of The Petit Family Foundation

(“Three Angels” Petit Family Memorial Garden)

 

Some enchanted evening; you may see a stranger,
across a crowded room; and somehow you know, you know even then,

That somewhere you’ll see him, again and again….. 

Who can explain it? Who can tell you why?

Fools give you reasons, Wise men never try….

(Lyrics: “Some Enchanted Evening, Broadway Musical, South Pacific)

 

This blogger had the good fortune to meet and get to know a world class physician, an academic, a quiet family man who devoted his former life to his patients and “his girls”, wife Jennifer, and daughters Hayley and Michaela.  The most recognized survivor of crime in the State of Connecticut, a reluctant hero, is the man known as Dr. William Petit, Jr. 

Ladyjustice has hesitated to write anything about this dignified and tormented man.  The media hounds him. The public is well meaning and generous through many charitable events whose proceeds go toward the Petit Family Foundation and the Foundation, in turn, sponsors many activities encompassing the three missions honoring his immediate family.

This tragedy of tragedies has effected the hearts of people throughout the U.S. and internationally. 

Ladyjustice does not want to exploit nor offend in any way shape or manner by offering her humble opinion.  She remains respectful and has tremendous admiration for the remaining survivors of the Petit family.

However, if a local person who occasionally crosses paths with this man, can offer a perspective as a fellow homicide survivor, and perhaps lead others to donate to his Foundation, why not?  

A wise woman named Susan Murphy Milano recently told this blogger that no crime victim would ever view such efforts as exploitation, because, as survivors of crime, we are a family. Our biological families have been torn from us, helping each other and helping future victims keeps us going on the path of justice for others.   So, in that spirit, Ladyjustice will carry on…. 

Connecticut experienced a “wakeup call” of the greatest proportion when this horrific crime occurred on July 23, 2007.  All assumptions about where “crimes like that” occur (and certainly not Cheshire) were shaken to the core.  This crime was the impetus for landmark judicial legislation, rallied people as never before to implement change in attitudes, to be vigilant about personal safety, to buy and install home alarm systems; to reconfigure our Parole & Pardons board, to create a system of sharing vital prisoner histories at all levels of the criminal justice system; to revamp the process for halfway house placements, to “get to know your neighbors” in the form of kindness and neighborhood watches; to initiate numerous scholarships and charitable organizations in the aftermath for the benefit of others who have aspirations “just like the Petit women”;  attempts to keep (and eliminate) the death penalty in Connecticut;  to create and carry out a legacy for their passions  and… for Bill Petit to have as many reasons as possible to carry on without them. (As of today, due to the current economic times, some of these milestones are still a work in progress but alive none the less). 

And now, nearly four years later, the legacy of this family lives on through the constant efforts of Bill Petit his parents, siblings, his  95 year old grandmother and extended family and friends.  

It is a strange kind of purgatory awaiting a trial… as if the trial itself was supposed to take away the past sins of the defendant(s).

(Ladyjustice’s purgatory, awaiting trial for her father’s homicide spanned six years.)  It is this “suspended animation” that wears you down so that by the time the trial is about to commence, you are in a state of mind that perpetuates the wounds and adds further insult to injury. 

This is yet another trying time for the Petit family, currently awaiting the second trial to begin in September for the second defendant, whose name doesn’t deserve the ink, and raises the hairs on everyone’s neck in Connecticut and beyond… 

In 2009, this blogger was in “full court press mode” as the Chairperson assigned to coordinate a huge state agency event held at our State Capitol known as “the BESB Awards and National Observation of White Can Safety Day.”  This event brings together a selected groups of visually impaired or legally blind students and blind adults whose accomplishments over time has served to go above and beyond” in their fields of endeavor or talents in ten categories. 

It is the “Emmy Awards” for the blind community in Connecticut, if you will.   AND, make no mistake…. This is not a demonstration that they can merely perform with their peers while experiencing blindness (and other disabilities).   RATHER, particularly with students, they not only keep up, but often far exceed their sighted peer and are multi-talented in academic and the arts or sports, community affairs, despite their blindness.  No Pity Party Here – Never, Unacceptable!  Most sighted people have no idea what blind individuals and today’s technology can do….  

This event involves coordination of a roster of candidates, nominating committee, contact and invitations with nominees, families, State legislators, municipal officials, the Governor’s office,  catering, facilities management, press releases, TV coverage,  official proclamations, the crafting of a programming script, correspondence, individual bios for nominees, organizing the flow, seating arrangements, entertainment, etc.; etc., AND selection of an appropriate Master of Ceremonies. 

How to get a speaker pro bono, who understands the issues of diabetes and blindness, is committed to the cause and can present in a way that engages the participants?? 

Ladyjustice wrote a personal letter to Dr. Petit explaining her journey with the medical world, personal disability, personal homicide and our agency’s mission and request for a Master of Ceremonies.   ‘A long shot at best, she thought. (Although this blogger’s previous efforts had nearly gotten Mary Tyler Moore twice for this event!)   However, this blogger had more in common with Dr. P. versus MTM. 

Enter Dr. William Petit, Jr….    He could not have been more gracious and apologized for the letter getting lost in the sea of mail.  Long story short, he came to our agency, toured, met with staff, including staff that happens to have MS, and was available for consultations prior to the event. 

Following Ladyjustice’s immense pleasure of introduction, Dr. Petit gave a thorough and thoughtful introduction “prior to his duties”, discussing his work with diabetes research and treatment, his hopes for the future and even read an inspirational narrative in French! 

His MC style was classy, engaging and funny!  He was everything Ladyjustice had hoped for!  He indeed was the man for the job!  And…“the cherry on top of the sundae” was to have Ladyjustice’s mother in attendance, beaming proudly and asking to meet the esteemed Master of Ceremonies!  How perfect!    He was now part of the BESB Family. 

(Post script- Soon to be part of the “New Bureau of Rehabilitation Services” as of July 1st.  So long BESB, a stand alone agency since 1893!) 

Fast forward to June 2011….   The public can read an unusual expose’ of the Petit family story in the June/July edition of Esquire Magazine.  You can’t miss the magazine, which, for some unknown reason chose to include “The Survivor” article with a cover page GQ like male with a woman’s hand suggestively inserted under the man’s belt.  Yikes!  Ladyjustice is no prude!

However, this is not the showcase for a man of his caliber.  A little class please!   I guess, we do what we have to, to serve others for the greater good and let the chips fall where they may, by other tasteless individuals who “just want to sell magazines at any cost.”  

The article begins with a typical event held to raise funds for his Foundation by the many friends and supporters of what was the Petit family foursome, then to a snapshot of his life currently in Plainville, followed by a the sentencing day of the first monster defendant on December 2, 2010. 

It is an account that reminds this writer of a work of fiction, describing glimpses, breathing, gestures, detailed descriptions of clothing, a visceral attempt to “get into his skin.” Ladyjustice is not amused.  This is no fairytale.  Other passages paint a picture of the humanity of what were his former family- stories of his children. 

The torture of being physically bound, seriously wounded and “not knowing, only guessing” what’s going on in the house is portrayed though Dr. Petit’s internal thoughts, back to courtroom testimony, the morning of the Memorial service (Something greater than a private service but less than a full blown extravaganza trying to accommodate the grieving public as well) with a man just out of the hospital trying to hold on. 

The story traverses to the events of the day prior to the murders-the family kind of activities followed by the meeting and courtship days with his wife and lessons he tried to teach his children.  The final pages treat the reader to an insightful account growing up in a working class neighborhood as seen through William Petit, Sr. in a family with several siblings, and Bill described as naturally being a self-starter, a survivor by nature (well worth the read!) 

Could such a normal boyhood existence have prepared this man for his future?  Not a chance….  To be fair, Ladyjustice should ask could anyone write an account that sufficiently covers the landscape of this story? 

It’s doubtful…   Perhaps one or two authors, like Diane Fanning, but very few for sure! 

“What’s if’s” are in the account, those tapes that play over and over in our heads, “had we or others only done things differently”,we might have our family member back in the world of the living.  Ladyjustice advise,  don’t do the “what ifs,” as we have enough self-torture in our lives….  Do the positive things that our family members would have done if they were here now. 

***And please donate to the Petit Family Foundation.  You will find no better reasons to give your time and dollars!

 Link: http://www.petitfamilyfoundation.org/