Thursday, April 30, 2009

National Crime Victims' Rights Week

Although final exams are upon me here in Tulsa, I would be remiss if I did not post this week. National Crime Victims' Rights Week began last Monday and runs until Saturday. This week here in Tulsa the District Attorney's office sponsored an event, dedicating a garden to the victims of homicide. People all over the nation have had similar remembrance ceremonies for victims of homicide. Some state officials have given awards to the men and women who have assisted victims deal with what they have been through.

I would like to honor my brother Bryan. He was a good brother, don't get me wrong we didn't always see eye to eye, but I admired his loyalty. He was loyal to his family and friends. There are few men as honest as him. He was always there for his friends that may not have been given the things he was given in life. I remember an instance where a friend of his was too intoxicated to drive. Bryan snuck up behind him and took the keys from the guy's pocket. When I was in Oregon, he was the one that called me to tell me our father was in surgery due to an apparent heart attack. He was always so calm under pressure. I tried to live up to his example when he died. His example got me through each step of the way. Every exam I take I think about him, and that ability. I didn't say it much when he was alive (in the name of bravado), but I love him.

Every survivor of homicide has a story, and every crime victim has a voice. Please support organizations in your area that support victim rights.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Victims and Due Process

Originally Published January 4, 2009 by yours truly on the BDL Victim Rights Blog.

Victim by definition denotes injury. Most criminal laws in the United States are based on the Jeffersonian ideal that we have a right to life, liberty, and ownership of property. The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that no one can be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. V. Criminal defendants since the ratification of the Constitution have enjoyed the protections of the due process clause, and rightfully so. Without enforcement of these protections, it would be more likely that an innocent man would be punished while the guilty man remains free. However, there are many today who believe that this clause was intended only to protect a criminal defendant, and that all men and women are entitled to this protection only when accused of some crime. These people say that a victim of crime has no place within the criminal justice system, and that the defendant’s rights must in every instance be protected even at the expense of the victim’s constitutional rights. When a criminal takes another’s life there is no due process of law, even in the criminal law system the victim is not allowed representation. The prosecuting attorney does not represent the victim directly. Listening to survivors of homicide recount their stories, the trials that took place prior to a Crime Victim Bill of Rights in that state (Homicide is mostly governed by state law in the U.S.) show the extent of the division between prosecutors and the victims of crime. In several instances the prosecuting attorneys never contacted the victim, and those that did made it clear that they did not need input. At that time a Victim Advocate’s main duty was to prepare witnesses (most of whom were not victims of the crime). The victim of the crime was right where the defendant wanted: on a deserted island where no one could hear from or see the injured party.

Justice Benjamin Cardozo in his opinion in Snyder v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts states, “Justice, though due to the accused, is due to the accuser also. The concept of fairness must not be strained till it is narrowed to a filament. We are to keep the balance true.” Snyder v. Mass., 291 U.S. 97, 122 (1934). This concept of justice is slowly being restored. In 1982, President Reagan commissioned a task force to examine the issues of crime victims in the criminal justice system. The report led to states amending their constitutions to reflect rights that the state needed to preserve for crime victims. Things are better than they were in the 1980s, but there is still injustice out there. Whether it is in the violation of state constitutional rights, or in rights not yet protected by law, injustice is injustice and should be remedied.

Personal Struggle

Originally Published November 25, 2008 by yours truly on the BDL Victim Rights Blog.

On February 5, 2007 my brother, Bryan, was killed outside a bar in Denver, Colorado. We sat silently through a trial, listening to the defense smear my brother’s name with innuendo. My family, myself included, has had a hard time reconciling the idea that Bryan isn’t with us. Since that time I have left a promising career in Business to attend Law School, with my aim being to assist victims of violent crime. Victims of crime are put in a spot where they have to fight for their rights each step of the way. Victim Rights Legislation has been passed in most jurisdictions in the USA, several of which are amendments to the various state constitutions. In 2004 the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3771, was passed and it expanded the rights of crime victims in the Federal court system. As time goes on the constitutionality of the simple rights victims of crime have been given, will be tested by defendants on appeal. They will cite the Constitution to attempt to silence one side of the story. The Defendant’s rights are protected by the U.S. Constitution. One of the lofty ambitions of this blog, and the work I will do in the future, will be to convince the government that the rights of crime victims should be protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Welcome to Awaiting Justice

The vision of this blog is to educate and advocate from the perspective of crime victims within the U.S. criminal justice system. All across America right now violent crimes are being committed against victims that represent all races and all walks of life. There are Millions of lives that have been affected by these crimes. New Criminal Trials start everyday in the cities of this great land, and the victims watch silently as the defendant parades his friends on the witness stand and testify to his character. Politicians have given victims rights (as long as they do not impede on the rights of the defendant), but the remedies are impractical or inadequate. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that where our Life, Liberty, or Property can be taken that we are guaranteed Due Process. In America a victim of violent crime is not entitled to due process. So here we are as innocent victims of violent crime left forever Awaiting Justice.