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

 

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

Background

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

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

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

The Conversation

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

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

The Shocker

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

What?? How could this be?  

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

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

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

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

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

The Request and Follow-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting Thoughts

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

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

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

References-

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

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

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


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