Violent Loss Resources Newsletter, October 1, 2016
- Topic of the Month: Victim Impact, Justice & Unsolved Cases
- Question of the Month: What mistake do you want to help others avoid?
- News: Hotline/Chatline crime victim centered and trauma informed
- Resource of the Month: Crime Stoppers
- Inspiration: Kaila Quote
Topic of the Month: Victim Impact, Justice & Unsolved Cases
One thing we are certain of … anyone who has lost a loved-one, and then goes through a criminal trial, whether it is a death-penalty case or not, knows that, in the end, there are no winners, no closure, no “happy endings.” What was done can never be undone … (Valeria)
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT
Today, judges are compelled by law to give co-victims an opportunity to address the court. All states guarantee the right for those who have been most affected by a crime to present a written or oral statement in court. This is called the Victim Impact Statement.
Most of the time this opportunity is at “sentencing.” The decision is up to the judge, but you will probably have an opportunity to read your statement in court. These reports become part of the record for this case. The judge may allow Victim Impact Statements to be submitted from different people who have been impacted.
Up to this point, the voices of co-victims have not been heard unless they were witnesses. An impact statement gives them an opportunity to speak on behalf of a loved one. This one chance to be the voice puts great pressure on co-victims to make sure it is complete and right within the limited time they have to speak.
I have heard several co-victims lament over what to say and worry they will be unable to read their statements in court without breaking down. You may appoint someone to read it for you. Again, check with your Key Contacts about what is allowed in your situation and have a backup plan.
Whether or not your case gets to a Sentencing Phase, this type of report is valuable for each person to complete and have as a family record. Writing down the story of your experience can be of great value to you and others over time. Once written down, you can edit it and refer to it so that you will not need to tell the story over and over again to new people in your world.
Justice requires more than holding offenders accountable. Yet we minimize a victim’s pain and suffering, and pretend that criminal convictions are a sufficient balm. We must meet our obligation to victims, not just because we are a compassionate society, but because helping victims rebuild their lives is an essential component of justice. (Susan Herman, 2010)
“True justice cannot really be achieved.” I hear this again and again. Listening to so many of you that when all the legal process is over, and the sentence you hoped for has occurred, true justice is not possible as there is no getting our loved one(s) back. The perpetrator may be held accountable by the legal system, but he or she has already “gotten away with murder.” Co-victims are challenged with having to reconcile this fact and rebuild their lives in spite of this reality. This is hard work.
“Getting closure” usually means only that an aspect of the journey after a murder will not be repeated, such as when there is a trial and someone is found guilty. Usually, but not always, that work is done and there is closure to that activity.
Murder cases can go unsolved not only for decades, but for centuries. For co-victims, this fact is just as disconcerting as the murder case itself.
- Survivor writer Marina has no hope of getting justice in the legal arena but finds ways to direct her rage and find hope.
- It took 33 years to get justice for the death of Debra Davis, one of the victims of a notorious crime boss in Boston.
- Dee’s family waited 13 years for cold-case detectives to find a pattern in the death of five women. Looking at their cases together led to a suspect and convictions. (Scream at the Sky)
- Joselyn Martinez, a 36-year-old actress, cracked a cold case by tracking down her father’s killer 26 years later, and handed her work over to detectives.
- The movie “No One Killed Jessica” tells the true story of model Jessica Lall, who was shot dead while tending bar in a New Delhi restaurant. Although a trial was conducted and dozens of witnesses testified, the suspected gunman was acquitted. But media outcry and petitions to the president from her sister and a journalist led to a reopening of the case and subsequent conviction.
- Actor Dylan McDermott solved the mystery of his mother’s tragic murder 45 years later, after he discovered police had covered it up. He was just five years old when it happened.
When a new angle is identified, or a new timeline has passed, Crime Stoppers can help bring public attention to the unsolved case. For another example, The Pasadena Star News agreed to publish pictures and background information on any unsolved homicide case in Los Angeles on the newspaper’s website. Additionally, the newspaper highlights an unsolved case weekly. It only takes one person, one call, to turn an unsolved case to solved.
Read much more in Murder Survivor’s Handbook …
Question of the Month: Was justice served in your case? What tips do you want to help others avoid?
My parents’ case has been stalled since 1980. For three years I stayed in contact with the FBI agent in charge of the case, hoping for justice for my dead parents. Since then, I have reviewed the case and the evidence, and written a book about the case to disclose information that had never before been made public. (Harrier)
I am very bitter about my experience with the justice system. Statistically, it is a system with a fifty percent failure rate. That is unacceptable, yet we are taught that the American system of justice is the best in the world. Really? Would you buy a two-story house with a missing second floor? Would you ever climb on a jet if you knew it might crash fifty percent of the time? Would you keep your money at a banking institution with a fifty percent default rate? You can call it a justice system if you please, but I call it the Busted System. So what if some people think it’s the best system in the world? That may or may not be true—it’s a big planet. But to me, the American legal system is merely the cleanest dirty shirt in the closet. (Marina)
People think that if you receive the sentence you asked for then justice was served. However, in reality they got away with murder because our (loved ones) are still dead. I find no justice in that. I thought that when I heard the words: guilty, guilty, guilty, and I left the courtroom, in some way I would feel differently. I didn’t. I took a small measure of pleasure that he was going to have to spend the rest of his life in a cage; that he didn’t get to walk out of the courtroom a free man. (Rose)
News: Hotline/Chatline for Victims of Crime Support. The State of Iowa has just launched a state hotline for crime victims and co-victims that not only provide resources but a daytime chatline: one-on-one chats in real time that are victim-centered and trauma-informed. This phone system for resources is available 24/7. Imagine this available in your state. Imagine a state or national hotline/chatline for those who have lost someone after a homicide. Talk with them about what is involved in setting this up. Contact <email@example.com> regarding the hotline and <firstname.lastname@example.org> about the Chatline .
Resource of the Month: Crime Stoppers
Crime Stoppers first began in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during July 1976, following the fatal shooting of Michael Carmen while he was working one night at a local filling station. After two weeks the police had no information when out of desperation Detective Greg MacAleese approached the local television station, requesting a reconstruction of the crime. The re-enactment offered US$1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the killers.
Within 72 hours, a person called in and identified a car leaving the scene at high speed, and he had noted its registration.
Crime Stoppers USA is the national Crime Stoppers organization that spans the United States to create a network of local programs that work together to prevent and solve crimes in communities and schools across the nation. Check out their successes and find them near you: www.crimestoppersusa.com
Let someone make you smile, let someone make you laugh, allow yourself to be happy. You could be a blessing that someone else needs. ( Kaila)
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