A lot of important happenings in today's hearing for Steven Hayes, co-defendant of the Petit family assaults and murders that occurred in July 2007. The hearing centered around the admissabiltiy of Hayes confession to Police following his arrest at the Petit family murder scene on Sorghum hill Drive in Cheshire.
Joshua Komisarjevsky, the other man arrested with Hayes as they fled the then burning Petit family home , (driving the Petit's family car no less) will be tried after his pal Hayes' trial has ended. Considering how time consuming Connecticut's voire dire processes alone are, Komisarjevsky's trial will wind up starting in 2012, if were lucky.
The bottom line is that Connecticut must create laws that place clear cut time parameters between when a violent crime occurs and when it is actually tried and resolved in a court of law. And although the logical assumption would be that this issue is primarily about fairness to the victims and the families of crime victims there are even more important and far reaching reasons for limiting the time between arrest and resolution of these cases.
As a survivor of a violent crime "handled" within a well known Connecticut court, I have a unique perspective on just how grievously damaging a lackadaisical judicial pace can be to the ultimate adjudication ( ie sentencing) of a violent crime case. As well the effect of these inordinately long lapses can be far more deadly than Connecticut residents could possibly imagine. (This brings me to one of my signature asides ..._)
While its easy enough to use terms like " adjudication, judicial resolution criminal case" et al
and clearly I myself do it--reflexively at times as does mainstream media and legal professionals alike, really all we're doing is antispeticizing a very unpleasant and upsetting subject--- And In doing this, unwittingly we wind up dehumanizing the victims of violent crime.
At least unwittingly in the case of well meaning writers and media members, whereas conversely the attorneys that defend violent criminals are more purposeful in thier attempts at antisepticizing what is at the core of these words and thus thier clients actions, they have an agenda-this is a different matter altogether.
In either case the fact is that what are behind these words are actually brutal and horrific acts of violence, committed against innocent human beings. Its easy to forget when reducing crime with such verbage, particularly for those who work in the courthouses everyday, what is actually at the heart and soul of those cases and all of the legal-speak that swirls around them.
Pain. Terror. Beatings, rape, suffering, torture and brutal and horrible deaths. THIS is what violent crime is about.
It is so much more than " a case."
Now where I left off.
My own violent crime case was "resolved" via a "plea bargain" -- nine and a half months after the crimes happened.-- Nn big surprise really when 97 to 98 percent of all criminal cases in Connecticut, including crimes like felony assault, aggravated rape, kidnapping and murder - are resolved by such plea bargains daily . Plainly speaking States attorneys in our Connecticut courts do not like to go to trial: they will typically pursue a trial only for the most high profile and/or heinous crimes or when the state has a strong case against a violent criminal who refuses to plead to anything "+reasonable", or anything at all, no matter how reduced the charges nor how many of his or her multiple charges are offered to be dropped completely within the proposed deal.
And when these charges are dropped within multiple charge crimes it is not because the criminal didnt commit that crime nor even because the state feels that that particular charge is iffy or wont hold up under the scrutinization of trial, no crime dropping within multople charge cases is done automatically, little to no logic behind it simply for the sake of "the deal." ie 'I'll drop this one and this one and lower these two to lesser crimes and voila youve got a plea deal and a violent crime "case" resolved, albeit leaving a criminal record that does not reflect what this criminal has actually done in his criminal past, thus his criminal file is terribly misleading and this often leads to more victims in this criminals future.
In other words when someone they've got dead to rites who wont "play ball."
In situations like these the prosecutor is pretty much forced to go to trial, and usually not happy about it; time consuming preparation for violent crime trials all take extrordinary effort, and unfortunately plea deals have become such a rote practice in our courts that if a prosecutor can get paid to do their weekly plea deal grind, why cause themselves a ton of extra work?
Unless it is a case that by trying and winning could elevate their profile and career. Also remember that many prosecutors and or thier bosses, are on specific career paths that might involve political aspirations or a vertical climb up the states attorneys ladder or often judgeships.
This complicates things even more for the victim and or thier family members, sullying up the "case" with yet another agenda, the attornys for the defense clearly have thier own agendas but the prosecutors are supposed to be the "good guys" they are in fact the sole voice for the victim within the entire judicial process.
This 98 percent plea bargain ratio creates more than one danger, making things even more problematic becomes the lack of trial experience that most of our Connecticut prosecutors actually have,(largely due to plea bargains and rarely trying cases) they find themselves at a distinct disadvantage when forced to compete against a well practiced trial lawyer who spends his or her life in the courtroom, often defending the most brutal murderous sociopaths-and "winning" As such is it no surprise that the majority of our state courts have become: little more than watered down revolving door plea "Deal" mills.
.As I said, the practical reasons for resolving criminal cases within a minimum time period are multi-fold and surpass simple consideration to the victim and victims family. Frst of all, time is a friend to the defense, anyone familiar with crime and the law knows this. Time tends to " heal" and part of this so called healing is merely the body and minds way of dealing with severe trauma, without completely shutting down.
So our memories soften a bit about the edges, our anger and loathing towards the criminal might even lessen a hair, if only to preserve our own sanity, for it tends to literally sap the soul to relive these violent happenings in our minds along with the accompanying shock pain and anger that is inevitable.
Moreover our memories fade, even if it is in imperceptible amounts, as does our desire to quote "get on with our lives" something that defense attorneys count on and manipulate to the utmost. By the time a felony assault, sexual assault, or kidnapping is finally "down to the wire" time wise in Connecticut an average of 11 months have passed.
Meaning; the judge presiding over the succession of "hearings" where the case is merely officially "continued" at the prosecutors formal request usually for another month or so at a time, And this for no other discernable reason than to procrastinate as the two "sides" consider the details of the case, beef up the lawyers bill with multiple court appearences, and of course clear the days court docket. And this is only when the victim survives, and the case is eventually resolved by plea bargain- meaning -again-no trial.
In murder cases such as the Petit family assaults and murders, if the case proceeds to trial, which it inevitably will, the average time lapse between the crimes and the trial itself is ridiculously long. This keeps surviving victim Bill Petit and his families in a state of chronic suspension both emotionally and physcially. Many people forget that Bill the sole survivor of the home invasion was seriously assaulted within that cluster of horrible crimes, he easily could have died of his head injury and blood loss.
There are laws protecting those who are arrested for committing violent crimes. As such it is only logical that there be parallel laws protecting the victims of these same
crimes. Instead, victim survivors of the most brutal crimes are supposed to rely on a loosely defined basically toothless bundle of so-called "Articles of victims rights" Entirely ineffectual and moot, they are not in fact laws, but rather a sort of .....guide - you might say.
Meaning, there is absolutely no viable recourse when these so called rights are infringed upon or directly violated as is so often the case in Connecticut's criminal courts.
And so you might ask as a concerned Connecticut resident and a compassionate human being - What can we do ?
Well for one thing, we can pay close attention to how our Connecticut lawmakers have voted within their terms on any and all issues related to crime and justice, particularly violent crime.
All legislative " sessions" ie (meetings) are now televised on Connecticut's local cable network And as such, as citizens we now have a real window into the machinations of our states lawmaking processes, as well as individual legislators personalities and moral and professional integrity- -taking into account of course any mugging for the cameras, but still.. .if one watches carefully, there will always be that moment when even the most polished legislator lets down his/ her guard and forgets that the session is televised and shows his or her true colors for a moment or if we're lucky- an entire diatribe.
These legislative sessions are a must see for anyone who has a TRUE interest in how laws are made in our state-and how laws are not made as the case may be. They are regularly scheduled and posted on our Ct Gov website. Make it a habit to begin viewing them-many of you will be awed by the general lack of genuine sensitivity and insight re victims of violent crime, at times shamelessly on display in our Connecticut General assembly.
So many well meaning citizens simply don't realize or forget that We CAN use the power of our
collective VOTE to help oust area lawmakers who vote against toughening laws and prosecution measures and accordingly vote for the candidate that supports tougher sentencing, tougher laws and victims rights.
We mustn't be lured by rhetoric that accompanys voting season:Connecticut legislators crime bill voting history must back them up, especially when it comes to crucial issues like whether or not to keep the state death penalty or to reform it and common sense issues such as whether the recent limited state funds should be spent on social programs for prisoners or for assisting victims of violent crime. (This year for example many victims programs were cut back at a time when high ranking judiciary committee officers are lobbying for multi-fold programs for inmates from access to more computers and free college education to elaborate re-entry programs.
Remember being dedicated to making Connecticut a safer state might mean crossing your political party's lines in the voting booth. This is something I myself, a registered democrat, have done and encouraged others to do when the need arises. Public saftey is more important than partisan politics.