Victim Impact Statement Tips for Homicide Survivors, Part II

 

Victim Impact Statement

This is a series of articles on the importance of the Victim Impact Statement including tips that I have gathered over the years from my personal experience as a homicide survivor, from others, and from those I have been able to assist in writing this critical document.

Expressing fear for your personal safety and the right to be reasonably protected is one of your State Constitutional rights, currently active in 33 states, under the Federal Statute enacted in October 2004 by the Reagan Administration.

But, what does it really mean to be reasonably protected? According to the Crime Victim’s Act of 2004:

2.11 Release or Detention Pending Sentence or Appeal

If there is an issue whether the defendant may be released pending sentencing or appeal, victims must be notified of the hearing and provided an opportunity to be heard. As noted earlier, section 3771(a)(1) provides that crime victims have the right “to be reasonably protected from the accused.” Under Fed. R. Crim. P. 46, the defendant has the burden of establishing that he or she does not “pose a danger to any other person or to the community.”

An educated guess concerning not posing a danger after many years of incarceration, no matter the number of crimes or how heinous the crimes may have been, might be house arrest, wearing a GPS device, being employed under constant supervision, and probation. However, reality tells us that probation is overburdened, GPS technology fails, and there are not enough staff to adequately monitor prisoners when on the outside.

What are the provisions made for surviving victims who are elderly, medically challenged, or victims who happen to be disabled?  Will the system provide real protection other than the usual bureaucratic responses?

In my personal case, I do not feel confident. I do not feel secure in the knowledge that the person who murdered my father will necessarily leave us in peace.  Rest assured that I will not quit until I know what reasonably protected truly means in practical terms. In the final analysis, the Pardon and Parole Board or the Court’s decision is just another decision in just another workday for most hearing officers, with nothing to differentiate them.

For those with able bodies and minds, I offer our natural resources as an option, if and when personal terror invades.     

The fight or flight response is a physiological response to acute stress when an imminent threat is present, real or perceived, either physically or mentally. This occurs naturally by triggering hormones which prepare your body to stay and deal with the threat effectively or flee from the situation. The manner in which this occurs includes the triggering of chemicals from your adrenal glands resulting in increased heart rate, breathing for increased energy, blood rushing to your brain and extremities and trembling due to muscular tension.  

Whether your brain and body choses flight or fight at the crucial moment to protect, I can’t say.  As for me, I can’t flee effectively, so I’ll have to depend upon my intellect to save me, which is what I have always done.

Within the context of your Victim Impact Statement you should relay your fears, as well as whether your current conditions to be reasonably protected are favorable to the decisions to be made by the court. Express your expectations on what reasonably protected means to you and your family.

For more tips on victim impact statements:

Victim Impact Statement: Tips for Homicide Survivors, Part I


 

DonnaGore-2

If  you need assistance with writing a professional Victim Impact Statement, please refer to the Victim Impact Statement FAQ’s on this site.

To schedule a presentation with me at your future event or  conference please contact:

ImaginePublicity,  Telephone: 843.808.0859  Email:  contact@imaginepublicity.com

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Victim Impact Statement: Tips for Homicide Survivors, Part I

Victim Impact Statement

This is a series of articles on the importance of the Victim Impact Statement including tips that I have gathered over the years from my personal experience as a homicide survivor, from others, and from those I have been able to assist in writing this critical document.

As a new crime victim, an affiliation that was never imagined or requested, you are thrust into the world of the unknown. If you are fortunate enough to have arrived on this stage of victim impact delivery at a trial sentencing, as opposed to plea deals, you have arrived at the most important point in your journey for justice. Your voice is finally allowed to be counted. The real world of criminal justice is a bitter pill to swallow. Justice is never swift nor fair, especially concerning sentencing.

When you begin to prepare your victim impact statement, you want to convey the journey and the overall toll it has taken from many perspectives; emotionally, psychologically, physically, financially, the overview of your current situation. Projecting into the future, express your wishes regarding the disposition of the perpetrator and any changes to the system which negatively impacted and/or re-victimized you or, alternately, your satisfaction with how you were treated.

Familiarizing the Deciding Body with the Victim

The judge or parole hearing officers may have a pre-sentence report, but that report may contain very little information about who your loved one was, the way they lived their life and what they meant to you, as opposed to only being the victim of the crime.

It is imperative that you provide a complete portrayal of your loved one both visually with pictures, and with the words of your Victim Impact Statement, as this may be your only opportunity for several years until the point of your initial court or parole appearance, or until you obtain future opportunity to address the court or parole board.

Talk about who your loved one was beyond the crime; their assets, talents, what they contributed to the family and to others, and their aspirations for the future that were taken away.  You can acknowledge that the victim may have had flaws, as we all do, however, the account should stress their past positive activities.

Watch for more information in future articles of Victim Impact Statement: Tips for Homicide Survivors


DonnaGore-2

If  you need assistance with writing a professional Victim Impact Statement, please refer to the Victim Impact Statement FAQ’s on this site.

To schedule a presentation with me at your future event or  conference please contact:

ImaginePublicity,  Telephone: 843.808.0859  Email:  contact@imaginepublicity.com

In the End: My Second Victim Impact Statement

tilting the scales of justice, David LaBahn, Shattered Lives, Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice

LadyJustice prevails!

                

April 24th, 2013 – A Lifetime Between Victim Impact Statements

One need only to read a sampling of my voluminous collection of blogs, 400 since 2010, mostly on various topics of crime, to know what I had learned in the intervening years since my initial victim impact statement. Read Part I In the Beginning…..for a synopsis of my experience.

I will list just some of the important differences  in the timing and circumstances that served to shape this second experience of victim impact statement delivery:

  • During the first reading, I truly felt that I was a crime victim whereas I was definitely a survivor of crime during the second opportunity.
  • I had the benefit of many years of experience with other families and the fine legal and advocacy counsel of Michelle S. Cruz
  • I had the benefit of time, which shapes a different perspective, different priorities
  • The impact statement was delivered in a different setting to a team of people as parole hearing officers versus a judge
  • We were able to “have my Father present visually” with custom made photos on easels contributed much to  present the murder victim as a true human being.
  • Several additional family members were present in the tiny room to provide their own statements and support
  • There was the presence of TV monitors with the perpetrator participating from prison and his father in another location with several of us crammed into a tiny hearing room. We looked for any sign of recognition or remorse … There was none.
  • I was so very proud of my mother, in particular,  who had  sacrificed so much and tearfully  delivered her statement with strength and courage
  • The fact that the perpetrator should never have been eligible for parole with additional evidence of serious violence while incarcerated  coming to light, served to motivate us to do our very best to eliminate the possibility of freedom
  • We were able to do a podcast preparing for a victim impact statement – both before and after the fact regarding the outcome  which  provided tremendous validation that we were on top of our game regarding victim’s rights versus those in charge
  • There were innumerable failures to inquire, educate and assist by the assigned parole victim advocate, and a near cancellation due to lack of the required parole officials, served to fuel the fire for justice
  • The fact that we were not initially afforded anonymity, nor our rights as  crime
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    Attorney Michelle S. Cruz

    victims. It was only with herculean effort and skill by Atty. Michelle S. Cruz that we accomplished that and more!

  • Ironically, our hearing was scheduled during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week (Pre-determined by God, no doubt)

It’s all about Style Content and Delivery, Man! 

My Second Victim Impact Statement was longer, bolder, expansive in content,  well written and truly painted a complete picture. For example, I asked for all the time I needed, I skillfully prepared packets of information about my father and a sampling of blogs I had written. I posed questions to the hearing officers, challenging them, but respectfully asking for answers (I received no answers, no communications directly or indirectly from anyone affiliated with the Parole Board. 

The main focus of my statement was to literally provide powerful images I had never forgotten all of these years. Rather than list the usual life milestones my father missed, I detailed accomplishments of which he would be most proud.  I painted an accurate portrait of the pathetic, unremorseful, indifferent career criminal before us, who didn’t know us from Adam and whose attorneys had not bothered to sufficiently prepare.  I recommended what I thought would be a just outcome.

Finally, I ended with, “There are only two ways to look at the future, with fear or hope. I chose hope for all survivors of crime. I refuse to be a victim, but am proud to be as survivor.”

To read the complete version of my Parole Board Victim Impact statement CLICK HERE My detailed report of that day and what transpired is included in this former blog post: Justice and Accountability.

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Donna Gore created a service program for crime victims and offers her assistance in creating a cohesive victim impact statement tailored to the individuals and their cases. If you need her assistance, or would like to consult with her, she can be reached at ladyjusticedonna@gmail.com

*Donna only accepts cases from families of homicide victims, as that is her area of expertise. She does not work in the field of intimate partner violence and cases concerning divorce or custody issues. 

 

 In the Beginning: My 1987 Victim Impact Statement

Donna R. Gore

It had already been what most people would consider a long-suffering life by the time I had reached my 26th year, just out of graduate school and embark upon my first professional, paid job. There had been years of physical therapy, surgeries of two major types, hospital admissions so frequent, they became a “way of life”, speech therapy and discrimination in higher education saying, “I had too many disabilities to succeed.”

In reality, I did not consider it long-suffering, it was just routine when I was going through it as a child, something I had to do to maintain. I was resilient and had strong parents, grandmothers, and neighbors to get me through!

Then homicide happened. To say it was life altering was an understatement of mass proportion. But, fast forward to 6.5 years later after “baptism by fire” regarding the criminal justice system, the lack of resources for victims in 1981, the promise that the head detective should never have made, disillusionment, so many questions, few answers and so many mistakes made with the case to be revealed later on.

However, within that mix, there was also a rebirth of sorts of this disability and LGBT advocate. In a strange sort of way I had found a true calling, another way to assist others. My intellectual curiosity was peaked forever. I became a standout member of Survivors of Homicide, Inc. in Connecticut. We were honing our voices on behalf of others at a time when crime victim advocacy was in its infancy. There was lots of planning, planning, planning, coupled with support meetings, creating awareness and numerous media appearances, and events, including volunteer court escorting with new families, and a fundraising golf tournament, just to scratch the surface of our many years of intense dedication.

In the process of obtaining justice we had to wait, not so patiently, for 6 1/2 years for our voice to be heard as this former drug dealer and multiple murderer was busy with the judicial process regarding other charges.

Don Gore

My father, Donald Gore

At times, the wait was intolerable, but there was no getting around it. There were other surprises to come, for instance, the use of joinder (essentially stringing two cases together that have like elements and defendants in order to make an ultimately stronger case when one is lacking sufficient evidence to convict  with one jury.) During that time, I cut my teeth on the hard truths and tried to assist others as my means of coping.

The trial lasted three weeks. Summoning our courage, trying to keep our emotions in check, my mother and I separately delivered our first victim impact statement.

Looking back on it now, I could have said a lot more. I could have said it differently and maybe better. I could have painted a more holistic picture. That would come years later with time, experience, and thousands of additional words as a writer, and now published author.

I offer the original here as a brief testimonial from the heart. Stay tuned for the second victim impact statement in a forthcoming blog!

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT

Re Victim Donald W. Gore 

Written by Eldest Daughter- Donna R. Gore

I’d like to thank you for this opportunity; one that I doubted would ever come to be until a few months ago. 

It is difficult to explain the impact of my father’s death in a few short minutes. No words could do justice to his life or his memory. My father made mistakes in his life as every human being on this earth. However, he was not on trial and the good he did far outweighed the bad. His strong belief in the work ethic, responsibility to family, and providing for those less fortunate, some former employees who needed a job, a meal money, clothes…he was there to provide. 

He was also there when I was in need of 50 surgical procedures throughout my childhood-a time in which both of my parents made many sacrifices so that I might have a better healthier quality of life.

We have been deprived of a father, a parent and all that the role implies. But, just as importantly, my father has been deprived too. He has been deprived of the opportunity of seeing the achievements his family and friends have and will make; deprived of observing success as he measured it – financial security, a comfortable lifestyle, education, career, the possibility of marriage for his children and grandchildren. All that and more has been taken away or curtailed and often replaced with much struggle and pain especially for my mother and grandmother due to his needless death. The most sincere statement I can make is to say I miss him and always will. 

It is clear to me that Perry Lee Herring is the ultimate failure in society. This multiple offender has proven time and time again that he has total disregard for human life; that he cannot be rehabilitated. Why else would he randomly fire four bullets into an unsuspecting unarmed person? Was it all for a few dollars? It doesn’t make sense and it never will.

I would ask that when you pass sentence, you consider my father’s death as a very real loss for a number of people and that you consider the multitude of crimes this person has committed. I would ask if his life must be spared, that he be incarcerated for the rest of his life in a maximum security prison with no possibility of earning “good time.” Although no action you could take will return my father to us, imposing such a sentence will give us some peace of mind of which we have deprived for six and a half years. 

Thank you for your Consideration

Sincerely,

Donna R. Gore

6-30-1987