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

Putting on the Band-Aid for Life  

 

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A colleague mentioned how trying it is to have to put a band-aid on “an ouchy” of a toddler where there was never a mark in the first place. When I thought about it, it seemed like this little gesture of compassion for the sake of a child could be a metaphor for life.

There are many types of people in the world. There are the drama queens – histrionic people with an over-exaggerated sense of everything in hopes of getting and keeping attention. There are the risk takers who truly live by the adrenaline pump with their behaviors – extreme sports, daredevil acts in hopes of achieving that ever higher goal “just because it’s there” as they clearly find everything else in life totally mundane. There are also those of us who by normal standards have been through hell and back and still function well because of an extraordinary amount of resilience.

Crime victims either excel at resilience with some practice or they bask in their victimhood and are never able to graduate to a new normal. I have written much on this topic in the past and at times, marvel at my ability to personally tolerate stuff that others could never approach. There is a danger in developing this sense of taking in the pain of others all the time. You can do so selectively and intensely feel that which you relate to best, or at the other extreme, become intolerant of the little annoyances of life that non-crime victims experience.

Do I really care that your computer crashed, that you can’t find your car keys, that your dog ate your new slippers? Not really. It is a sense of perspective and using your personal life experience as a yardstick. This can be dangerous, as a person who has experienced much trauma in life can be perceived as uncaring toward others. I have survived and succeeded because I try to concentrate on the big stuff. (and also have a sense of detail and organization to maintain control.) When the little stuff happens to me though, I am my own worst enemy with absolutely no patience.

I fear that there is a massive dumbing down taking place in our American culture in many aspects –an oversimplification of intellectual issues to find life more palatable.

As I write this, we have sustained yet another massive assault on human life in the Orlando tragedy that has many layers of the onion still to be analyzed.  It would be unfair of any of us to oversimplify. However, we all do it daily so that we might carry on.

The key to life is balance and respecting others.  I have to secretly remind myself sometimes that the fact that someone’s dog that ate the slippers is traumatic to them, if not to me. We have to give everyone his or her band-aid after all. Some of us wear big band-aids for life while others wear them temporarily.  However, as crime invades more and more of our lives, in a sad way, we are coming together with more in common every day.

I hope that if we are perpetually headed for the dark side, we can also relish the good and come together in solidarity.   All of us need to pay attention to the big and little traumas, while putting them in perspective for a healthier existence. And… just maybe the toddler with a non-existent trauma is smart…as he/she is getting prepared for life.

Catalyst for Change- Victim Impact Statement Resonates Across the Halls of Washington D.C. & with the Inspector General of Homeland Security 

 

The following narrative is a heartfelt account of a mother who lost many opportunities to guide and nurture a daughter who was re-establishing her life.

Wendy Hartling

Wendy Hartling (photo courtesy FOX Insider)

Consider the ordeal and evolution of Wendy Hartling of Norwich, CT.

  • Just a year ago, Wendy was  “just an ordinary citizen” and resident of Connecticut;
  • She was thrust into a whirlwind of circumstances which includes the murder of her 25 year old daughter, Casey Chadwick on June 15, 2015, after her body was discovered stuffed in a living room closet by an illegal immigrant and multiple felon;
  • With the assistance of dedicated advocates including her attorney, Chester Fairlie and the Connecticut Congressional delegation,  her case has served as the catalyst for change regarding the innumerable deportation failures of ICE – The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency;
  • As overwhelming as it is, Wendy has become a local advocate and national spokesperson for her daughter and for all persons who have been re-victimized by the failures of ICE.

The murder of Casey Chadwick is a stunning example of the domino effect at its very worst. Worse than bureaucracy, indifference, incompetence and misplaced priorities, it costs the lives of valuable human beings and allows a vicious, nearly two time murderer to come to the U.S. illegally three times to carry out his crimes! This can no longer be tolerated! 

Wendy’s Testimony at the House of Representatives COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM

Hello. My name is Wendy Hartlng. My life will never be the same after June 15, 2015. I am here on behalf of my daughter Casey who was stabbed to death and stuffed into a closet by a criminal alien, Jean Jacques. He was found guilty of attempted murder in 1996 and served sixteen years in Connecticut Prison. He should have been automatically deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement when he was released from prison. Instead he killed Casey on June 15, 2015 and was found guilty of her murder after a trial. My hope is that he never gets out of prison.

According to laws passed by Congress, Jacques should have been deported. ICE had him in custody and detention three times. Tragically, ICE released him three times and he killed Casey just a few months after his last release by ICE. From defensive wounds we know that Casey fought courageously and that she suffered greatly before her death. If ICE and Homeland Security had done their job Casey would not have died and I would not be here as part of the club of Homicide Survivors which no parent wants to join.

My Attorney Chester Fairlie has written an article on the failure of deportation of criminal aliens. I would like to submit a copy of the article s part of my testimony. Mr. Fairlie states “This miscarriage of the deportation process contributed to the death of Casey Chadwick and caused grief and suffering to her parents and friends.” I understand that the Inspector General of Homeland Security has undertaken a full investigation of the Jacques failed deportation case and we are awaiting the report.

My daughter was loved so much by family and friends. Over three hundred people came to her wake. Casey and I were very close. She called and texted me every day. I can no longer talk to my daughter, hold her, hug her or just simply hang out with her or go out to eat which was one of her favorite things to do. This breaks my heart every second of every day. Casey’s best friend for thirteen years Crysta who came with me on this trip as support is devastated as is Casey’s boyfriend.

This is what I have lost. I can’t watch her walk down the aisle on the arm of her father. She will never have the chance of becoming a Mom, something she was thinking of before her death. She will never see her two nephews grow up or go to her siblings’ weddings. She will never again be at our family functions and holidays.

The tragedy of Casey’s death is not an isolated case and is occurring frighteningly often around the country.

Something has to be done to fix this horrible problem. I would never want any family to have to go through this. The pain is always with me. My heart is broken. I go to a Survivors of Homicide group which is very helpful.  An important thing I learned was that the pain will never go away. I have to learn to live with it. I am trying but it is the hardest thing for me in my entire life.

I was not prepared for Casey’s sudden death and I am doing the best I can. I was not prepared to become a Victim Advocate in her honor and I am doing the best I can. Thank you for listening.

Casey Chadwick

Casey Chadwick (photo courtesy FOX 61)

Commentary

The emotional upheaval of homicide is compounded by the task of crafting a cohesive, personal and impactful statement for the sentencing phase of a trial, or parole/pardons hearing. Wendy will utilize her public hearing testimony above as her victim impact statement.  Her wish is to become a long time advocate for this issue on behalf of Casey’s memory.

As a fellow homicide survivor, I believe that the most compelling aspects of her statement are: what she has learned “… that the pain will never go away and that I have to lean to live with it” and the fact that she was not prepared for the sudden death of her daughter, Casey, not prepared for this level of advocacy required to get justice. I ask you, how could anyone be prepared if they were in her shoes? 

If you have sufficient times – several weeks to months to prepare and require assistance with your victim impact statement, your investment in my customized victim impact writing service could be just what you’re looking for!

https://donnagore.com/victim-impact-statement-assistance/

Important Reference Information:

http://fixdeportation.org/ Chester Fairlie’s Website;

Former Shattered Lives Radio Shows on this topic:

  1. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/insidelenz/2015/10/24/shattered-lives-illegal-immigrant-spared-deportation-murders-ct-woman
  2. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/insidelenz/2016/05/21/shattered-lives-atty-chester-fairlie–government-secrecy-ice