Shattered Lives Radio: Victim Impact Statement Reverses Parole

 

 

 

Shattered Lives Radio

On a recent episode of Shattered Lives Radio, I was privileged to discuss yet another discrepancy in the Connecticut Pardon and Parole system. As you may remember, my own family’s experience with a parole hearing left us out in left field, scrambling at the last minute to insure that my father’s murderer stayed behind bars.

For the surviving family members of slain Plainville, CT police officer, Robert Holcomb, the incompetence and lack of communication from the Pardon and Parole Board, created the perfect storm and Holcomb’s murderer was granted parole in January, 2015.

Slain Plainville, CT police officer Robert Holcomb

Robert Holcomb

Family members of officer Holcomb were not notified of the upcoming parole hearing and therefore were not in attendance when it was granted. However, they immediately asked for another hearing, it was granted, and the parole was rescinded after hearing the statements of surviving family members.

One of the most influential aspects of the recission hearing was the victim impact statement read by Holcomb’s son, Mac, who was only 3 years old at the time of his father’s murder.  Mac Holcomb Victim Impact Statement (download pdf)

The Shattered Lives Radio episode speaks with Mac Holcomb, his cousin Maria Weinberger, and Plainville Chief of Police, Matt Catania who has become a valued family friend as well. We were able to bring to light many of the mistakes of the Pardon and Parole Board which has had negative influence on the Holcomb family, my family, and countless others we don’t even know about.

Shattered Lives Radio Points of Discussion

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  • You don’t know what you don’t know.  The fact that as a new crime victim they typically are not versed in criminal or judicial procedures.  They also are not familiar with how to navigate the bureaucracies of state agencies, their protocols or websites.
  • Who is a victim? Is it only immediate family vs. extended family?
  • The role of victim impact statements according to Mac Holcomb, nearly forty years later.
  • The police community and seeking justice according to Chief Matt Catania.
  • Creating a victim’s voice, what’s missing?  New beginnings for the future, i.e. legislative recommendations such as earlier notification for victims, examining the appointment and eligibility process of hearing officers, continuing education, etc.
  • Maria Weinberger offers a list of legislative recommendations to address Parole Board Reforms (download pdf)
  • Lessons to be learned for the future.  From a previous Shattered Lives Radio episode, Atty. Michelle Cruz offers several ideas from her experience as the CT State Victim Advocate.

In my opinion, one of the most important lessons learned from the Holcomb family experience, and my own, is the critical need for crime victims to be heard through preparing a victim impact statement. Often, it’s the only time their concerns are able to be voiced.

One way I feel I can help victims who are desperately trying to navigate the judicial system is by offering a Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service. If you are a crime victim, I invite you to learn more about my service by referring to my website for details.

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Victims’ Wish List

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On Saturday, May 9, 2015, it wasn’t a case of “too many cooks spoil the broth” on Shattered Lives Radio– it was “many cooks make the broth” when crime victim advocate put their heads’ together on behalf of the public!

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It was really a “meeting of great minds.”  The groundbreaking show can best be described covering a very unusual parole reversal case, combined with victims’ rights policy and the honoring of a fallen police officer who became the victim of a ruthless homicide.

Toward the end of the show, a “wish list” of sorts was created by guest contributors Attorney and former CT State Victim Advocate, Michelle S. Cruz, CT Survivors of Homicide Advocate, Jessica Norton- Pizzano and Plainville, CT Chief of Police Matt Catania.

“How much time do I have? “was Michelle’s question.

Michelle Cruz’s Ideas for Reform:

  1. Devise a checklist of locations to search for family members (for notification purposes)  based upon their former geographic locations,  employment, other known affiliations, special interests etc.  It is high time that Board of Pardons and Parole and Victim Advocates “think out of the box” in an attempt to reach out in every possible way for this important purpose.  In addition to the usual social media,  I’ll add Ancestry.com as a possibility!
  2. Alter the notification period currently from the standard 35 days to at least six months to a year!  Revolutionary? Yes, but in view of how long it takes for state agencies to do their work and the knowledge that attorneys assisting seldom have the flexibility to alter their calendars in 30 days in the midst of court trials etc, this is a realistic time frame.

As seen in the Robert Holcomb parole hearing, relying on outdated documentation and “not going the extra mile” to locate family members for parole hearings, made for an intolerable situation!

  1. “Put some teeth” into the system In other words,  if any one of the many constitutional rights of a crime victim is violated, no matter the reason or the person committing the violation, build in real consequences! What might those consequences be, you ask? I offer: docking someone’s pay, suspension from work, remuneration to the victim from “the party who failed to act.”

Jessica Norton-Pizzano’s Ideas  (via the CT Victim Rights’ Enforcement Advisory Council )

  1. Create a central place to compile, and display victims’ rights information from all agencies  in all court settings including Survivors of Homicide, (SOH), Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers,  (MADD), Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS), Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), The Office of Victim Services, (OVS) ,and The Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA).  This could include information desks, special kiosks etc.
  2. Establish a long-term notification system , in particular including minor children, as they will be the  future representatives for cases in which parents and other relatives pass on over time.
  3. Utilize the full capacities of SAVIN.  Include another box on the form that would provide for in person notification if the family chooses.  Refer to one of my former blog posts:  The Most Important “Head’s Up EVER! The Victim Information Notification System (VINE)

Police Chief Matt Catania’s Ideas

  1. It is vital to keep the human touch in the process versus relying on “paper and  electronic methods” as we continue to serve victims of crime.

It should be noted that it was Matt’s valiant efforts to unearth the true nature of the injustices done to the Robert Holcomb family, to strategically work collaboratively  and with sensitivity for family members using uncompromising standards so  that  justice was done for both families!

“Nothing can replace the power of human contact and compassion.”  LadyJustice

PLEASE listen to this podcast and share.

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