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August 17, 2012

More on victims' perspectives and advocacy after SCOTUS Miller ruling

Today's Los Angeles Times has this interesting new piece headlined "Ruling on juvenile killers reopens wounds for victims' families: A Supreme Court decision that juvenile murderers with life sentences should have a chance at parole stirs old memories for relatives of victims; Some are preparing to fight back."  Here are excerpts:

Jose Vasquez remembers the night police officers came to his house and said his sister Tayde was dead. He remembers too the mornings escorting his mother to the trial in Long Beach, and their relief when the young killer was given life in prison with no parole.

Now, after 20 years, the Supreme Court has ruled that juvenile murderers with mandatory life sentences should have a chance at parole, a decision that has led many states to debate comparable legislation. On Thursday, the California Assembly passed a measure that someday could set free youthful offenders like Elizabeth Lozano, who was 16 when 13-year-old Tayde Vasquez was shot in the head.

For Tayde's family, that is like the knock at the door again. Preparing to fight back, they returned to the courthouse this summer, collecting old records and transcripts, and seeking out prosecutors.  They also have written prison officials asking to be told whether Lozano files a legal appeal, wins a parole hearing, escapes or dies. They are determined to keep her inside the California state prison in Chowchilla. "It's like it's all coming back again," Vasquez said.  "It's like a ghost hunting us down."...

In the United States, about 2,000 inmates are serving life with no parole for juvenile murder.  In California, there are 300 such offenders.  To get parole under the bill, likely to pass next week in the state Senate, they would first have to serve 25 years and then convince authorities that they regretted their past actions, have stayed out of trouble in prison and could be productive in society.

That is a very high bar.  Yet Lozano, now 37, has by all appearances turned her life around. She has excelled in academics, led prison fellowships and won accolades from the prison administration.

For the Vasquez family, that is not good enough.  Nor does it persuade victims' advocates like Maggie Elvey, whose husband was killed in 1993 by two youths in San Diego County. She said opponents would consider a lawsuit to stop enforcement if the bill became law. "You do it, that's it," she said of a life sentence.  "That's what you get."

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, whose pregnant sister and her husband were killed in 1990 by a 17-year-old in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, worried that the court ruling would be emotionally devastating for her if she had to once more fight against a killer's release. After so many years, she said, case files might be missing, memories may have faded and witnesses long ago may have died.  "Everything we would need to arm ourselves might be lost," she said.  "Our ability to fight a parole hearing would be severely compromised."

Some states have found ways to get around the court's ruling. In Iowa, Republican Gov. Terry Branstad last month commuted sentences of life with no parole for all 38 juvenile murderers in his state, but he then made them eligible for parole only after they served 60 years.  A killer at age 15 would be 75 before he saw a parole board.

Some related recent posts on Miller and its impact on victims:

August 17, 2012 at 02:53 PM | Permalink


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Apologies in advance to the ordinary person for pointing the self-evident. However, the lawyer has been made really stupid by his legal education. And the higher rated the education, the stupider has it made the lawyer.

"Yet Lozano, now 37, has by all appearances turned her life around. She has excelled in academics, led prison fellowships and won accolades from the prison administration."

This improvement has taken place inside the structured setting of the prison walls. Loose this heartless, vicious bitch, and she has a lot of catching up to do on crime, killing, and the Roman Orgy lifestyle, and will surely do it. She would be the darling of the feminist lawyer and its male running dogs.

The LA Times is a left wing, propaganda outlet entirely devoid of any credibility. The North Korea News Wire has more credibility.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 17, 2012 10:37:46 PM

Supremacy Clause,

You have become a parody of "tough on crime" advocates. It is not self-evident in any other Western democracy that a teenager convicted of murder should have no opportunity for parole (not necessarily release). You have no logical answer to that, and simply enagage in ad hominem attacks on anyone who disagrees with you. Your views lack all semblence of nuance or recognition that people can change. Why the lack of rigor?

Posted by: Alex | Aug 18, 2012 12:58:24 AM

Alex: Outside of the factual mental crippling effect of law school, I made no personal remarks. That was not even an attack. It is a loving criticism, and the disappointment of one of the owners of the law. I have coined the term of art, lawyer dumbass, to describe the result of cult indoctrination into supernatural core doctrines, the resulting utter failure of every self stated goal of every law subject, and the obliviousness of the little dictators on the bench to their utter idiocy, to the sole validation of their decisions, the point of a gun.

I hope that clarifies my positive attitude toward the lawyer profession, lawyer is a victim who needs our help. He needs to be kidnapped, and deprogrammed from his sick cult indoctrination.

That being said, I also acknowledged the change Lozano made. I just pointed out the location where the change took place. And her release would likely set her progress back, as she returned to the bastardy dominated, amoral, feminist produced neighborhood of origin.

If you and I moved to Iran, no matter what our current cultural behavior, we would soon act Iranian and think Iranian. Surely you agree we rapidly adapt and blend into our surroundings.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 18, 2012 7:05:51 AM

I have had this discussion numerous times over the years with Jennifer Bishop Jenkins. She is a passionate and tireless advocate for families of crime victims. It is hard to criticize someone who has lost a family member though horrific circumstances, but Ms. Jenkins and other advocates have a one-size-fits-all philosophy. I think the Miller ruling was the correct one. It does not open the door to release all JLWOP offenders. It just unties the hands of the judges in determining whether LWOP is the proper and necessary punishment for a child who has no doubt been tried and sentenced as an adult. My personal opinion is that no child under the age of 18 should be given a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Possibility means just that. He/she will have to work hard, stay out of trouble against nearly impossible odds, and find the inner strength to rise above a degenerate prison lifestyle. Of the ones already in prison, most would fail the test of having stayed out of trouble, avoided gangs, educated themselves, become truly remorseful, and turned their lives around while incarcerated in barbaric conditions.

But some will make that journey. And some who appear before the court will have mitigating circumstances from the very beginning that explain the crime.

For families of victims, no punishment will ever be enough. There can be no justice for victims. Even those whose offender is given the death penalty, many families have made the observation that it doesn't seem fair for the person who savagely murdered their loved one to simply lie on a gurney, close his eyes and go to sleep, seemingly painlessly. There's not enough suffering or pain.

I know that if I ever lost a loved one, I would want to take a baseball bat to him/her and bludgeon him/her to death. I would. And I think that's a pretty normal reaction for all but the saintliest of us. But fortunately for society, we have a system of laws and courts and rules that make the hard decisions for us. The logical decisions. The decisions that are best for the whole of society. I have been accused of wanting to let kids who murder off easy, with the proverbial slap of the wrist. That's such baloney. I don't understand why there has to be only two polarized solutions: lock 'em up and throw away the key, or give them a quick tsk tsk and let them go. I believe anyone who takes another's life should be punished severely. Taking away 25 years of a young person's life and sending them to live those lives in the harshest of environments is not a slap on the wrist.

And the offender who killed Ms. Jenkins family members will not get out. He was sentenced to 3 consecutive, not concurrent, life sentences without parole. Even if commuted to life with parole, he will still never get out. And I fear that more states will do what Iowa did and over-correct. A 60 year sentence is basically LWOP. Kicking an institutionalized elderly man o woman out the door at 75 is creating more problems for the state. And it takes away any incentive for the offender to really put the effort in to turn his life around. It's easy to forget that a consequence of that is to make prisons safer - for prison guards/workers and inmates alike.

One more thing. Ms. Jenkins has stated that there is already a system in place to correct injustices in sentencing. It's called clemency. But clemency has become as politicized as just about everything and has been degraded to the point of not being a viable option.

Posted by: Jacki Gansch | Aug 19, 2012 1:10:38 PM

Ms. Gansch, your post has a lot of interesting assurances. I don't see where you have the clairvoyance to give those assurances with any measure of confidence. Of course, that doesn't stop you.

You posit that the Supreme Court's Miller decision was correct. (Correct is an odd choice of adjective, as the Supreme Court's decision is really a codification of the penological views of five of the Justices, but whatever.) But then you state that "[m]y personal opinion is that no child under the age of 18 should be given a life sentence without the possibility of parole." Surely, Ms. Gansch, you realize that LWOP for juvenile killers IS a possibility under Miller. I understand that it's possible to believe that no juvie killer should get LWOP, but also believe that Miller is right, but I think we all realize that if you had a vote on the Supreme Court, you would ban LWOP for juveniles.

Putting that bit of sloppiness aside, your assurances that the "wrong" people won't get out are just plain silly. The graveyards are full of people who were killed by those who weren't supposed to be paroled, but who somehow were. On top of that, depending on the parole scheme that is in place, victims' families may have to endure parole hearings. Surely, pulling the rug out from under these people has some place in your calculus--or maybe not.

I don't know what it is about criminal coddlers. Is it just moral preening? I understand that it is harsh to send a juvenile away for life. But I also understand that (a) sometimes you do things that get your life ruined and (b) legislatures, tired of seeing victimization by parolees, decided to resolve the risk against the killers.

What Miller should have done is to have taken a wait and see approach. Let these guys spend 30-40 years in jail and then resolve the issue of whether the continued punishment of that person violated the Eighth Amendment.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 19, 2012 9:11:04 PM

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