Today is Hayley Petit's birthday. Hayley would be celebrating her twentieth birthday today with friends and family had she not been murdered by two men who made a life-long pattern of taking from others that which did not belong to them.
On this occasion they stole life - three beautiful lives. And although the Petit family victims were all attractive, I am speaking here of something far more enduring and important, their inner lives, a beauty of spirit.
Two and a half years have passed since Hayley, her mom Jennifer and her sister Michaela, were murdered in what has been labeled as a "home invasion", a misnomer as far as I am concerned. The two men caught fleeing the murder scene in the Petit family car, sit in prison awaiting a trial which has yet to be scheduled.
When lone survivor and grieving husband and father Bill Petit, vocalized his dismay over the plodding pace of the Connecticut judicial system, he was admonished by the presiding Judge at the time, " honorable" Judge Damiani, and rather rudely assured that two plus years was well within the normal parameters for a capital murder case in this state, thank you very much.
In fact, the judge expounded, he was personally offended by the mere proposition that the Judicial process was taking far too long. It was an "insult to him and his court"
When I heard Damiani's words, I was livid - for Dr Petit, his families and for all victims of violent crime in the state of Connecticut. This state needs an overhaul in how it views and subsequently handles its violent crime and criminals. And Judge Damiani's words perfectly illustrate a huge part of the problem and that is: desensitization that has led to a perversion of the very notion and definition of justice.
In an overzealous effort to protect the accused criminals rights, our courts have shown a directly proportional increasing lack of rights begginning with sensitivity and respect towards the victims of these brutal and violent crimes.
As the lone survivor of his family's massacre, Bill Petit is a double victim.
People tend to forget that this man was repeatedly beaten on the head with a baseball bat, suffering traumatic brain injury, life threatening blood loss enduring vertigo headaches and what surely must be severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- all due to the commission of these crimes.
He survived only because in an adrenalin surge, he somehow managed to break free of the rope tying his hands to a pole in his cellar and hop up the cellar's bilco stairs (with his feet still bound) then half crawling, rolling to a neighbors arriving just before his house burst into a gas fueled flames, with his children tied to their beds inside.
He suffered and lived through this by sheer will and happenstance, and he is further victimized by the same mechanism by which any and all family members of violent crime victims are; they become victims themselves via the sheer knowledge of the details and the violence that befell their loved ones,. Family members are traumatized.
And as details about the crimes emerge friends and family are re-traumatized, which is why many family members of homicide victims feel the need to know everything that they can about their loved ones murders before the trial. This, so that they feel "prepared" emotionally prior to any court proceedings where details are likely to be discussed ad nauseum.
What is ironic here is that it is the victims after all for whom the state is presumably working it is for them that justice is pursued. Are they not the very embodiment of the crimes, the charges that the state is pursuing against the accused? I'm afraid that this notion has become moot as our courts have slowly but surely turned into little more than administrative processing pits.
We owe it to Hayley Jennifer Michaela and every victim of violent crime in this state to see that this changes.
'You must be the change that you wish to see in this world"
Eleven year old Michaela Petit's favorite quote on her Facebook page