CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Our Legal System Needs Urgent Revision!

 

I refuse to call the Legal system in this country, a Justice system.  It is far, far from being just.  In fact, the system too often allows for gross miscarriages of justice, damaging many innocent people, to varying degrees.

Take the case of Susan Cox Powell.  In 2009, Susan mysteriously disappeared one night in Utah, leaving behind a husband and two young sons.  Her husband, Josh Powell, was not arrested, despite an overwhelming amount of facts that very strongly pointed towards the conclusion that he was behind the disappearance, and likely death, of his wife.

Josh Powell said, “he’d taken his two sons on a sudden late-night camping trip the night his wife was last seen, despite freezing temperatures and a snowstorm.”  Source: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/dateline-investigates-the-disappearance-of-susan-powell-in-new-2-hour-special.html/  Retrieved 11/20/19.  After the disappearance, one of the sons, when being interviewed separately from their father at a police station, said that his Mom had gone on that trip too!  She never came back.

I understand the hesitation to declare a person guilty until there is enough evidence.  Innocent until proven guilty.  Susan’s body was not found.  But Susan had confided in female friends, letting them know that Josh was a controlling, abusive husband.  And Susan had consulted a divorce lawyer.  We know that one of the most dangerous times for a victim of domestic violence is when the abusive partner finds out that his partner has decided to leave the relationship.

Following the highly suspicious disappearance of Susan, the two sons, Charles and Braden, (then ages four years and two years), were initially allowed to stay living with their father, Josh.  I see this, in basic terms, as allowing a suspected murderer to be allowed to freely take care of two very young children.  Josh had moved in with his father.  When Josh’s father was arrested for child pornography, the situation was re-visited and Charles and Braden went to live with the parents of Susan Powell, their grandparents.  A judge ruled that Josh Powell could see his sons, with supervision.  Supervision in the form of a social worker being present.

In 2012, a social worker arrived with Charles and Braden at a house that Josh was renting.  Charles and Braden entered the house.  Josh shut the front door on the social worker before she had a chance to enter.  Then, in the spirit of pure evil, “Josh killed himself and his two children in a murder-suicide, attacking the boys with a hatchet before setting his home on fire, leading to an explosion.”  Source: https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/dateline-investigates-the-disappearance-of-susan-powell-in-new-2-hour-special.html/  Retrieved 11/20/19.

Meanwhile, despite so many reasons to back up the innocence of Rodney Reed, Rodney Reed “has spent the past 22 years in prison after being convicted of the 1996 murder of Stacy Stites.”  Source: https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/rodney-reed-jason-flom-wrongful-conviction-interview-913170/  Retrieved 11/20/19.  For example, “Rodney Reed and Stacey Stites were having a consensual sexual relationship.”  Source: https://www.innocenceproject.org/10-facts-you-need-to-know-about-rodney-reed-who-is-scheduled-for-execution-on-november-20/  Retrieved 11/20/19.  So, accusing Rodney Reed of rape and murder makes no sense.  By the way, Rodney Reed is a black man.  Furthermore, a prison-mate of Jimmy Fennell’s, (Jimmy Fennell being the man who had been engaged to Stacey, and both Jimmy and Stacey being white people), reported that he had heard Jimmy Fennell confessing “to murdering Stacey stating, “I had to kill my n*****-loving fiancée”.  Note: Jimmy Fennell “served a 10-year prison term for a sex crime and kidnapping” after Stacey Stites was murdered.  Source: https://www.innocenceproject.org/10-facts-you-need-to-know-about-rodney-reed-who-is-scheduled-for-execution-on-november-20/  Retrieved 11/20/19.

Rodney Reed was due to be executed in Texas today, November 20th, 2019.  Fortunately, this execution was halted.  Just five days ago!  But, … Bitter-sweet.  Innocent people in prison for decades for crimes they did not commit?!  Where is the justice?!

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Sexual Assault of an Unconscious, Intoxicated Woman

Back in 2015, a man sexually assaulted a woman on a college campus and it became “huge” news!  Why?  Initially, because the victim was unconscious at the time, due to being intoxicated, and because the perpetrator of the assault was at the time a budding athlete and a member of Stanford University’s swim team.  And later, uproar from some, when the perpetrator’s father, Dan A. Turner, let it be known that he believed that prison was too harsh of a punishment for his son and referred to the sexual assault as “20 minutes of action”!  Giving his opinion on the proposed six years prison sentence, Dan Turner wrote in a letter submitted to the court: “That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”.  Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/06/06/a-steep-price-to-pay-for-20-minutes-of-action-dad-defends-stanford-sex-offender/  Retrieved 9/18/19.

Back in 2016, the victim of the sexual assault, then not named, criticized how much attention the media was giving to the impressive swimming ability that the defendant had and the negative effect that this incident would have on his future in relation to opportunities as a professional athlete.  “The fact that Brock was an athlete at a private university should not be seen as an entitlement to leniency.”  Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/02/stanford-swimmer-sexual-assault-brock-allen-turner-palo-alto  Retrieved 9/18/19.

Earlier this month, more than three years following the sexual assault, the victim has revealed her identity to the public.  She is now no longer just seen as the intoxicated, unconscious woman.  She is Chanel Miller.  She has a book coming out on September 24th.

It is my hope that the book has a decent-sized portion dedicated to acknowledging the two “angels” who by chance witnessed Brock Turner sexually assaulting Chanel Miller in 2015 as they were cycling through the campus, and stepped in, one of them going to the aid of the victim and the other chasing the perpetrator as he attempted to flee the scene and managing to stop him and hold him there until police arrived.

We, the public, need to be made aware of and potentially educated about acts of abuse, such as sexual assault.  For example: Possible circumstances, dynamics, consequences.  I also believe that we could benefit from more emphasis being given by the media on the details related to any heroes/heroines involved in violent crime stories.  Had Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson not intervened the night of Chanel Miller’s attack, the outcome of the story would have been different.  Let’s increase positive reinforcement of good/right behavior, as well as paying attention to bad/wrong behavior!

Note: Although “Bystander Intervention” is potentially very valuable.  It can also unintentionally escalate a situation, making it worse!

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Perpetrators and Sentencing

“To what length of time in prison, on average, are convicted perpetrators of Domestic Violence sentenced?”  I had avoided asking myself that question, because I didn’t want to feel further resentment towards the justice system here in New York City, given the outcome of the criminal case brought against my abusive ex-boyfriend.

But then I heard something, from a reputable source, that, on the one hand meant that I could feel better about how the case against my batterer turned out.  For example: The result was not an unusual one. But on the other hand, what I heard left me aghast! Only a very small percentage of perpetrators of Domestic Violence spend any amount of time at all in prison, or even jail!

“Citywide, 4% of cases initially arraigned on domestic violence felony charges were sentenced to prison (at least one year) and 16% were sentenced to jail. … When isolating cases that ended in a guilty plea/conviction, … the citywide median” [for jail] “was 90 days, which ranged from a high of nine months in Staten Island to a low of two months in Bronx and Brooklyn.”  “Note: Cases include … felony cases that were disposed in 2014 (regardless of filing date), as provided by DCJS. Omits disposed cases pending sentencing from pled guilty/convicted sentencing figures.” (Source, retrieved 05/31/19: https://www.courtinnovation.org/sites/default/files/media/documents/2018-03/domestic_violence_nyc_case_processing.pdf)

My physically abusive ex-boyfriend spent zero time in jail, and in my case, the Police Officer who arrested my ex saw the blood around my mouth, (from when I hit the floor after being pushed backwards off our bed), and a Medical Examiner had photographs taken of my neck that clearly showed that I had been strangled.  (Both of those professionals did their jobs well, in my opinion.) So, how severe does an act of physical violence against an intimate partner have to be, in order for the abuser to be sent to jail, let alone prison? Apparently, extremely severe! Murder?!

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PROTECTIVE ORDERS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN THE U.K.

In the United Kingdom, (UK), “if the police have reasonable grounds to believe that one person
has been violent or threatened violence against another and that a Domestic Violence
Protection Notice, (DVPN), is necessary to protect the other person from violence or the threat
of violence, they can choose to issue a DVPN.” (Source:
https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2018/11/15/domestic-violence-protection-notices-orders-
social-workers-need-know/) A Domestic Violence Protection Order, (DVPO), is then applied for,
by the police, to a magistrates’ court, where the abuser will appear within the next few days,
having been summoned. A DVPO lasts up to 28 days.
At the end of a criminal case, a court can issue a Restraining Order, whether the defendant is
convicted or not, which “can last for a specified period of time or for an indefinite period, until
further order from the judge.” (Source: https://www.rocketlawyer.co.uk/article/restraining-
orders.rl)
If a Restraining Order is not issued by the court, a victim of domestic violence can apply for a
Protective Injunction, including if there has been no criminal trial at all. “It typically takes a
week or two to get an injunction, but you can apply for an injunction to be granted on the same
day if you are at immediate risk of significant harm. If the court grants an injunction without
notice, you will have to go back to court later for a hearing once the abuser has been given
notice. He or she will then have the opportunity to present their side of the story if they wish.”
(Source: https://www.lawdonut.co.uk/personal/divorce-and-family-law/grounds-for-
divorce/restraining-orders-and-injunctions-faqs) Injunctions are usually set for a period of six
months to a year, but they can be renewed and can also be indefinite.
A relatively new type of regulation for criminal cases, introduced in 2011, is the European
Protection Order, (EPO). The EPO “recognises the need to … deliver a more … coordinated
approach to victim support across the EU”, (European Union). (Source:
https://supportingjustice.org.uk/the-link-between-european-protection-orders-and-domestic-
violence/) “The relationship between an EPO and domestic violence is distinct; the aims of the
measure focus on preventing any form of harassment across borders.” EPOs in the UK have
been extremely rarely used so far, partly due to a lack of awareness of its existence. In 2015,
there was an extension to the law, to include protection in civil matters.
‘Brexit’ is the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. If Brexit prevails, the UK will miss
out on the continuation of a potentially life-preserving option for victims of domestic violence,
since by no longer being a member of the EU, the UK would no longer be eligible to apply for
EPOs.

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The use of Restorative Approaches for cases of IPV?!

On March 16th, 2018, a conference was held by the NYC Domestic Violence Task Force, to explore the use of Restorative Approaches to Intimate Partner Violence.

My question: Are restorative approaches a viable, sensible, safe option for supporting victims of Intimate Partner Violence, (IPV)?  I entered the conference believing that they are not!  I was open to being shown otherwise.  The keynote speeches were excellent, and what I heard from the panel members about their work was wonderful.  I could hear and understand that restorative approaches are successful with certain populations, in certain situations.  For example, with young people in schools, when there are conflicts.  I can also imagine success in the case where a crime such as a burglary has been committed.

BUT, what was barely mentioned was how anybody envisages, with any amount of clarity, restorative approaches being used in the case of IPV.  I had been expecting, and wanting, to hear about some potential restorative approach models, specific to IPV, that had been thought up, proposed, by somebody.  We could have then discussed those.

One restorative practice that was talked about a lot was the “circle”.  Circles allow, possibly, for those in it to speak and listen to one another, in a safe place.  Or is it a safe place?!  I, as a survivor of IPV, know from my experiences and from hearing about the experiences of other survivors, that abusers are cunning, manipulative actors.  Furthermore, they do not care that they inflict harm upon their partners.  Do perpetrators of IPV want to change?  In my opinion, they basically have no desire to stop abusing their partners.  Are they even able to change, for the better?  I highly doubt this.

“Circles”; Victim-Offender Mediation; Family Group Conferencing.  Call a restorative approach practice what you will.  When I heard people talking about Restorative Justice at the conference, I thought: “Sounds like Couples Counseling, or Family Therapy, to me!”

My conclusion: Use funds more wisely.  Forget about restorative approaches; concentrate on improving the current systems.

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Yes. We Respond To Brock Turner’s Dad

Brock Turner’s father, Dan A. Turner, views rape as “20 minutes of action”!  That is what we find, reading Dan Turner’s court statement.  Brock Turner raped a woman in January 2015.  She was unconscious at the time.  Brock Turner was convicted of three felonies.  Prosecutors wanted a sentence of at least six years in state prison.  Dan Turner felt that such a sentence would be “a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action”.  First of all, it is disgusting that rape would be described as “minutes of action”!  “Incarceration is not the appropriate punishment for Brock … Probation is the best answer for Brock in this situation”.  My second point is that “this situation” that Dan Turner refers to, is a violent crime that his son has committed.  Brock sexually assaulted a woman and deeply altered this woman’s life forever.  But Dan Turner is more concerned with how his rapist son’s life has been altered.  In his court statement, he wrote, “Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever … His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.”  I ask, “Whose fault is that?”

I am appalled by Dan Turner’s comments in his court statement.  He defends and minimizes the act of rape to such a degree that I, and countless others I feel sure, feel sickened.  “Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society”, wrote Dan about his son.  Did I read that correctly?  It seems that Dan is desperate to support his son regardless of how awful his son’s behavior is.  I understand wanting to protect one’s family members, but when a family member sexually violates another human being?  Dan wrote that his son “is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity”.  How dare he suggest that his son would be a good candidate for communicating with others, with a view to teaching them, about sexual relations!  And bringing up the topic of the dangers of alcohol consumption appears to me to basically be an attempt to discredit the victim of the rape and essentially to blame her for what was so brutally done to her in January of last year.

 

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Being Unsilenced

Brock Turner received a six months prison sentence for raping an unconscious woman on Stanford University’s Campus. The judge felt that a longer sentence would have a “severe impact” on Turner. It is worth mentioning that this prison sentence equals to about 3 months jail time with good behavior.  Turner was facing up to 14 years in prison.

We are not going to write an opinion on this cases outcome, we are going to let the victim words speak to you. In a 12 page letter, the victim who wishes to remain anonymous speaks for all of us…

https://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/heres-the-powerful-letter-the-stanford-victim-read-to-her-ra?utm_term=.ffeJkgD8Ny#.yfwKQ0JWe6

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