Mar 26, 2009

Teens and Lawmakers Talk About Dating Violence (CT News Junkie)

An excellent idea that will save lives, please read about this important proposed legislation, and voice your support to the Connecticut General Assembly. This is where we can instill the most change regarding partner violence, with our youth, the men and women of tommorow!

Mar 25, 2009

Victim's Voice Day in Connecticut

Today is the first annual Victim's Voice day throughout the state of Connecticut. From 10-2 PM at various locations in each county there will be an input-focused meeting- of- minds for crime victims and residents interested in learning and sharing about victim's rights in our state.
There will be representatives from the Office of Victim Advocate as well as the Governors office and other arms of the State's Judicial System, including Domestic Violence specialists.

If you are unable to attend in person please take the time to click on the State of Connecticut Victim Voice Day website linked above. There are online forms that can be printed up and mailed out so that your opinions can be given equal time. There are also listings for Victim's Voice locations in each county for those who are able to attend in person.

You will also find descriptions of new legislation that will affect all Connecticut residents as well as victims of crime and their loved ones -- so please take the time to learn about it and share your input.

If you are a surviving victim of crime or you know someone who is, please make your opinions, your feelings and your experience known. There are a great deal of problems within our State's criminal justice system, particularly within our courts - this is a rare opportunity for victims of crime to share about these issues first hand.

Below is a link to a downloadable adobe PDF format of The Victim's Voice Day flyer that is being distributed at all of the statewide locations today .

Mar 22, 2009

Petit Family Foundation wins FBI Community Service Award

Congratulations to Dr Bill Petit for winning the FBI Connecticut Community service award for his work with the Petit Family Foundation. The foundation was formed after the murders of his wife and two daughters in a 2007 home invasion. Dr Petit was badly injured himself within the crime, but miraculously managed to survive. After the crimes, outpourings in the form of letters and unsolicited donations began to trickle in from people all over the country. After careful consideration, Dr Petit decided to form The Petit family foundation, a multi-directional Community based non-profit that donates to, and raised money for, a smattering of good causes such as The multiple Sclerosis Foundation and Those affected by violent crime., including Domestic Violence.

PFF also provides multiple scholarships to deserving young women, and recognizes and rewards local youths for exemplary community service involvement.

It would seem that Dr Petit is living by example, his own words at a memorial service for his lost loved ones;

" If there is anything to be gained from the senseless deaths of my beautiful family, let it be for us all to go forward and live with a faith that embodies action: help a neighbor, love your family, fight for a cause."

Clearly, those words struck a deep chord in a great many people, both within, and beyond the borders of Connecticut; A kind of en- masse altruism has sprung forth in the form of soaring volunteerism, community outreach and a general raised consciousness towards others who are in pain or in need .

Twenty months after the crimes, the good works steadfastly grow as many continue to be inspired by Dr Petit's words and moreover, the life examples of he,Jennifer, Haley and Micheala, each one uncannily kind and committed to making this world a better place.

Mar 14, 2009

Petition for keeping the Death Penalty In Connecticut

It has recently been brought to the attention of the Connecticut Judiciary Committee that getting rid of the death penalty would save the state a good deal of money In fact There is currently a bill in the house that proposes the complete abolition of the penalty within the state to be replaced with life sentences with no possibility of parole in its stead.

And with the current climate surrounding all things money, being what it is, more than a few members of the committee and the legislature would seem to think that this bill is worth considering. After all, they point out, the death penalty, although legal in Connecticut, is rarely awarded here by a jury or judge The parameters that a crime or crimes must be defined within in order to qualify for this, the ultimate punishment are far from commonplace -- they must be in effect the worst of the worst capital murder cases, having one or more particularly heinous attributes in order to be eligible for a death sentence.

For these and other reasons, the death penalty sentence is rarely given in the state of Connecticut, and with its endless automatic appeals process, the actual penalty itself, death by lethal injection, is even more rarely carried out.

Once, to be exact within the past 2 decades, and this was a case whereby the criminal in question had to petition the courts to have his sentence actually carried out! He didn't wish any more state-financed appeals slowing down his jury awarded sentence. His name was Michael Ross, he was a serial murderer and rapist, but thankfully, he plead guilty and accepted his sentence for brutally raping and murdering 7 women,including two fourteen year old girls.

Or at least he tried to accept it, but ironically the same state that gave him the sentence, would seem to do all they could to delay it, he was finally put to death 2 years ago.

These plethora of appeals that occur once a death penalty sentence is given in Connecticut are ironically required within our current system, whether or not the defendant wants to appeal. This is what wastes money, not the death penalty itself . Its clear to almost everyone that the judicial process surrounding all death penalty cases desperately needs restructuring so that we are no longer rendering our most serious criminal penalty useless via what amounts to bureaucratic, state financed stalling tactics.
While many of the opponents of the death penalty blithely claim that the death penalty is an insanely expensive prospect, once you look closely, this is mostly due to the dragged out appeals process which indeed, bogs down the courts, slows up the process and takes up our state-paid attorneys and prosecutors valuable time in the meantime.

And so, where does this leave us? While many of us agree that the death penalty is not working in its present form here in Connecticut, we recognize that the main reason is not an inherent flaw with the concept itself but rather because its been literally hijacked by defense attorneys, and swallowed up in bureaucracy, thereby collecting dust at the bottom of our states judicial broom closet.

As a survivor of violent crime,and one who advocates for crime victims, I adamantly believe that we must preserve the right to exercise this, our most serious of sentences, for the most serious of crimes committed against us.

The "us" here represents our neighbors, our loved ones, our brethren-our friends. No one ever thinks that violent crime will come to visit upon them, yet we are the people that comprise this state and as such, we are all potential victims.
As a state and a people, we cannot afford to continue drawing the line of criminal accountability farther and farther away from anything resembling justice.

The old adage ' give an inch, take a mile' would seem to be written with defense attorneys and violent criminals in mind; experience has shown us that many will take whatever they can get -and then some-- out of our justice system. There is no moral compass, no reasonableness, none of the decency that we are accustomed to expect from fellow human beings. Certainly accountability and justice are merely vapid words to most lawyers. They often hide manipulation and deceitfulness behind the mantra that "every person deserves a fair trial .." and our courts have literally followed suit, As the lawyers manipulated the law and the process, our prosecutors and judges had to scramble to "keep up" in effect. The result is what we see today a system that has become corrupted. It didn't happen all at once, it happened in small increments, bit by bit.

If we make life without parole the worst possible sentence in the state of Connecticut, it is only a matter of time before lawyers and other like- minded individuals will be insisting that a life sentence with zero possibility of parole is cruel and unusual. And following suit, there will be a move to ban this punishment in lieu of life sentence with the possibility of parole. And on it will go.

And this is saying nothing of the deterrence effect that the death penalty may have upon a would be criminal, And what might happen when the possibility of garnering this severe sentence is no longer a viable concern to any would be murderer. As it is now, It certainly has not helped our states present situation that we so rarely impose the death penalty here; career criminals are well aware of this, they are aware of the rarity of the sentence itself as well as the obscenely long time that murderers languish on "death row" once they have been actually sentenced. Decades and decades. Many die in prison whilst waiting for that sentence, which is never delivered.
In a recent public meeting concerning the Death Penalty abolition, Connecticut's head prosecutor Kevin Kane, shared about having to stand by and watch while years and years go by and the fathers and mothers of murder victims die themselves, often from natural causes, long before their loved ones killer is given his sentence!

These families lives are first utterly traumatized by the horror of the violent crimes against their loved ones, and then put on a terrible stasis, waiting for a trial that takes years before even commencing. Case in Point, Dr William Petit will have to wait at least 3 years before the trial begins for the two men accused of killing his wife and children in July 2007. The current word is that Jury selection is slated to begin early 2010.

Again, experience dictates that in most criminal cases, the first estimates for trial dates are almost always pushed back several times over. This is usually at the bequest of the DEFENSE and again, acquiesced to by the presiding judge, who is in effect blackmailed in granting these delays, lest a mistrial later be awarded, due to a claim (by the defense) of inadequate trial preparation time.

The incessant delays that have become rote practice within our courts leave the victims and thier families in a state of suspended healing, forced to hold onto vivid memories of the crimes and the emotions connected to them during a time period where they should be allowed their already- difficult healing process.

This process will be unnaturally put on hold the moment a jury selection begins for the criminal trial of his families killers. And With this current DP abolition proposal, people like Dr Petit and his family may have to suffer the additional emotional insult of having the original death penalty sentence that was officially sought by the states attorneys handling the case, thrown out and changed to a life term in prison in its stead/ Although the death penalty was not going to bring the Petit and hawke families a perfect sense of solace or closure, it would serve as a viable sense of justice for their family members cruelly robbed lives.

Chief prosecutor kevin kane also concurred that the lengthy appeals process is but one of several areas that needs to be revamped within the states current death penalty system. While clearly a believer in the death penalty and against statewide abolition, he realizes that it isnt working in its current form.

I will be writing more about this crucial issue over the following days and weeks. For those of you who feel strongly about keeping the death penalty sentence as an option in Connecticut's courts, please click on the link below and sign your name to the petition, it will be presented in the near future to the lawmakers of the state.

Let your voice be heard.

Mar 5, 2009

Mar 4, 2009

Domestic Abuse Linked to Poor Health, Years Later

Content below excerpted from US News and World report April 2008

I didn't want to read the news story about Amy Castillo, the Maryland mother whose estranged husband drowned their three young children in a hotel room last Saturday. I didn't want to read that the family court judge refused to deny the father unsupervised visitation because Castillo continued to have sex with him after he talked about killing the children just to hurt her.

I can only surmise what this poor woman would have done had she known that he would most certainly carry out his threats. Shooting him in cold blood would have been an understandable option. (I say this as a mother of three kids.)

No one wants to read these stories, and no one wants to talk about them beyond expressing pity for this now childless mother. Amy Castillo said she shared her fears and no one listened to her. But even she may not have realized that what her husband was doing was a form of psychological abuse. And all women who live under a threat from a loved one, even when it doesn't erupt into violence, need to start having these conversations with their friends and family, not only to protect themselves but also to educate judges and doctors who all too frequently miss the signs in their female patients. A World Health Organization study published in today's Lancet found that women currently being abused were more likely to have memory loss, difficulty walking, dizziness, and vaginal discharge. Even those who hadn't experienced violence over the past year were more likely to be in poorer health overall, which the researchers write "suggests that the effect of violence might last long after the actual violence has ended."

Yet many doctors fail to connect the dots between partner abuse—including threats of violence—and unexplained health problems like chronic headaches, insomnia, painful sex, and gastrointestinal complaints, according to Janice Asher, a domestic violence expert and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "All too frequently, women will get CT scans, MRIs, and other tests that go nowhere when doctors don't take the time to ask if they're in an unsafe relationship," she laments. While abuse itself can obviously cause injuries, psychologists have found that the pain often lingers after the body heals due to "memories" stored in nerve cells. This could explain why a woman might suddenly develop pelvic pain after entering a new relationship when her last boyfriend forced her to have a type of sex she didn't want.

With 2 million American women abused by their partners every year, doctors are doing a huge disservice when they don't screen for domestic violence—especially, Asher adds, since most women won't talk about abuse unless they're asked. (And even then, many won't discuss it until they've established a trusting relationship with their doctor.)

"I'm so glad you're covering this!" she tells me. I told her that I heard a great presentation she gave two years ago on screening for domestic violence. What struck me at the time was how few doctors at the gynecology conference were in attendance to hear her remarks. "Yes," she sighs, "doctors tell me they're too pressed for time to ask about abuse." So, women may have to take it upon themselves to speak up about prior abuse if they're experiencing unexplained pain or other symptoms.

The first priority for a woman in danger, of course, is to get away from the source. Unfortunately, as Amy Castillo learned, the system doesn't always make that possible. Organizations like the National Coalition Against Domestic violence