Saturday, June 14, 2008

There's No Such Thing as "Closure"

by Kelly Siegler

There are those moments that scar your soul when you have been a prosecutor for as long as I have. Those moments when it is your job to tell a mother and a dad who have lost their baby what to expect from the real criminal justice system, a system that is a far cry from what they imagine it to be.

Parents who have lost a child expect that somehow this archaic thing we call the criminal justice system will in some way make things better or right or just. And somehow that defendant who has taken their baby away from them in an unimaginably brutal way will not only be held accountable but also be punished as he or she should be by twelve members of our society.

Can you imagine the bottomless pain that a parent endures when they have learned that their child has been murdered? As many times as I have met with and counseled with parents suffering through that agony--and told them that we are there to do all that we can to make sure that the defendant is convicted and punished justly—I have also had that "other" conversation with them.

You see, in our world, the world of a prosecutor who handles such cases (as I have, far too many times), we also talk about the fact that as parents, they shouldn't put their lives on hold waiting for a defendant to be charged or arrested . . . or waiting for a trial to commence . . . or waiting for an appeal to be exhausted or even waiting for an execution to happen. I tell them that too many other parents, who have walked in their steps and truly do know their pain, have told me the truth.

The truth. The truth is that there is no such thing as "closure."

Sure, you hear it all of the time. You hear that closure is what we should be seeking on behalf of victims everywhere. You hear experts and psychologists and even law enforcement officials all over the country talking about closure as if it is some "state of mind" that we can help a mommy and a daddy, who have learned they will never see their baby again, obtain.

But when you ask those same victims if any of that—the arrest, the conviction, the sentencing, the execution—ever truly helped them gain "closure," you know what they all say? They all say no. They all say there is no such thing. They all say they are glad that phase of the process of the criminal justice system is complete. They all say thank you, and then they go back to having to figure out how to get up again the next morning and live another day in a world that no longer has the same color and light and joy in it that it did "before."

I remember the day I met a lady named Pat Kiesewetter. She came to my office so that we could discuss the case and the investigation and the upcoming trial of Richard Walter Holtje, the man charged with murdering her 16-month-old son, Samuel, in 1975. Pat is a shy lady, tall and slender, with red hair, who will tell you that she has never been the same since her baby was drowned in a scalding bathtub more than thirty years ago.

She told me about how she came to know the man who drowned her little boy, how they met each other at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and became involved. She told me about the evening she left for her night class and came back to find her baby on life support in a hospital--and about kissing him goodbye before he was taken off of life support.

As she told me the story that day—and as she told the jury and the Judge the story during the later trial—we could not all help but be affected. To listen to Pat talk about losing her baby boy and then the added pain and anguish she dealt with as years went by, more than twenty-five years, before the man responsible was charged with murder, you couldn't help but be touched.

But what scarred my soul in hearing Pat's story was when she told me this. She talked about the day there was a knock on her apartment door. When she opened it, there were two men standing there, who introduced themselves as Detectives Roger Wedgeworth and Harry Fikaris (pictured left and right, respectively) with the Harris County Sheriff's Cold Case Squad. They told her they were there to talk to her because they had re-opened the investigation into the murder of her baby.

Pat told them—and she later told me and then the jury—that in that moment of disbelief, she began to cry and tremble. Because she had long ago given up on anyone but herself caring about what happened to little Sam. Because she had lost all hope in law enforcement and in the criminal justice system. Because she blamed herself for what happened to Samuel and because she had long ago lost all interest in living.

I made sure Pat Kiesewetter got to say all of that out loud, to a courtroom full of people, to the world, and to the man who was responsible. Not only for taking little Sam's life, but for taking hers too.

Does Pat have closure today? She gave up on that a long time ago.

KELLY SIEGLER has worked as a prosecutor for Harris County, Texas for the past 21 years. She has handled approximately 150 jury trials including 19 death penalty cases. Her cases have been written about in four true-crime books and her trials have been featured on Court TV and CBS's "48 Hours." Kelly has tried 15 cold cases to juries with many of those defendants now on Death Row.


Anonymous said...

Great insight into what crime victims go through in families.

Kathryn Casey said...

Great post, Kelly. You're spot on. I haven't known a single family, after two decades of covering crime cases, who have told me that they've gained closure. No one can bring their loved ones back, and families deal with the pain daily, throughout their lives. Very sad.

I guess what we can hope for is that justice is served.

Stan Schneider said...

The other side of the equation that Kelly forgets is that often the person accused has a family that believes in their heart in the innocence of a loved one. Or the family feels the shame that is associated with unexplained violence. The harder a prosecutor tries to demonize the accused the more hurtful it becomes to their family members. Sometimes, there is no closure for either the family of the victim or the accused because the results of a trial cannot be satisfying to both.

Kathryn Casey said...

We're glad to have you commenting, Stan, and you're right, those are considerations. I have, at times, felt very sorry for the family of the accused. Some of the folks I've met are good people in very bad situations.

In the case of a guilty defendant, however, I wonder if the suffering is comparable. While one family is able to talk with and see their loved one, the other suffers a complete loss. They'll never hear their loved one's voice again and only see them in old photographs.

Victims' families have told me that they consider comparing their suffering to that of the defendant's family as an attempt to diminish their loss.

What do you think?

Leah said...

I just don't think you can compare the two. The losses are so different, as you pointed out KC.

Kelly, how many people have told you that you look like Caroline Kennedy [Schlossberg]??

Leah said...

I just don't think you can compare the two. The losses are so different, as you pointed out KC.

Kelly, how many people have told you that you look like Caroline Kennedy [Schlossberg]??

Stan Schneider said...

As defense attorneys, we see the problem three ways: the innocent wrongly accused and exonerated; the innocent wrongly accused and convicted; and a guilty person convicted.

We know that the second of these situation occurs because of the DNA exonerations. We know that at times innocent people are acquitted. When that happens, both the victim's family and the accused's families feel violated.

I read recently of comments made by a prosecutor in Dallas when confronted by a DNA exoneration. The prosecutor was convinced that there had been no mistake and that the jury had gotten it right and was shocked by the exoneration and that an innocent man had spent nearly 20 years in prison.

Anytime a person is hurt and someone is accused of a crime, the lives of two families will forever be drawn together and their lives will change forever. Their losses are immeasurable.

As participants in the criminal justice system we cannot repair their losses. Sometimes we, prosecutors and defense lawyers, are insensitive to the families because we are passionate advocates for a position but this is a discussion that can go on and on and needs several bottles of red wine to ease the discussion.

Kathryn Casey said...

Unlike the prosecutor you mention, I do understand that the innocent can be convicted, which was why I qualified that comment with "in the case of a guilty defendant." And I'd love to take you up on that some time, the red wine and the discussion. LOL

A. said...

Stan says;
"The other side of the equation that Kelly forgets..."

Geez. How do you know what "Kelly forgets"?

Do all defense atty's speak in such absolutes?

A. said...

Stan Says:
"The harder a prosecutor tries to demonize the accused the more hurtful it becomes to their family members."

boo hoo.

Try putting responsibility where it belongs.

Levi said...

You know Stan, I don't mean to sound spiteful, but you have done a great job of hijacking this blog post and the discussion and turning it into into a discussion about wrongful convictions.

Those are important discussions, and important issues, but this was about the victims families and what they go through.

There are several posts about the wrongly convicted and the exonerated that have been made by some of the great contributers here on the blog.

Maybe you should refer to those posts?

Levi said...

Kelly, great post. Now let's get back on the topic at hand.

Our criminal justice system is bent in the direction of the accused, where sometimes the pain and suffering of the victim is quite frankly irrelevent, and I think the resident defense lawyer, just proved that, by changing the subject to the defendants.

I think victims rights has made great strides but it has a long way to go in my opinion.

Paralegal Sandy said...

I think closure and justice is over rated. All victims want is to live or have other people not violate them. All the families want is for their loved ones to be allowed to live out their lives in peace without another person infringing on their right to life, peace,harmony and sense of security.

kelly said...

Hi Stanley, I notice that of your "three problems that defense attorneys face", you omitted one: the guilty defendant who goes free. Or is that not a problem???

Levi said...

Kelly, great comment. And it is not a problem. When a jury sends a not guilty verdict, everyone must must respect it, jurors are gods you know. And when they get out on a technicality, the system is working. Yeah the system works REAL GOOD when they reoffend after being released! ::rolls eyes::

A. said...

paralegal Sandy says:
"I think closure and justice is over rated"

I cannot imagine a crime victim who would say that justice doesn't matter, or that it's overrated.

On a sidenote: these boards tend to attract two types of people; those with actual crime experience (victims), and those that work in the crime field and just observe crime. The above statement, and even Stan's are a clear reflection of ignorant theories that lack empathy or any real knowledge of those that have actually suffered at the hands of a violent perpetrator.

There are uniques individuals, that don't have to suffer themselves, who truly empathize with a victim. Those people are generally compassionate and insightful, and I always appreciate their posts.

Paralegal Sandy said...


On January 7, 2006 my 21 year old niece was shot in the jaw, chest and stomach by her boyfriend. Then he shot himself in the head. He died instantly. She died on the way to the hospital. There was no justice in that situation. And all we want is our loved on back. Nothing else really makes any difference.

I have two grown daughter and 1 grown son. I have 9 grandchildren, several of which are teen-agers. One of my daughters is a 10th grade teacher. And I have been involved with children all my life. I presently care for 17 year old twin girls. So in response to your other post, I speak from experience not theory.

But you know what …. people love drama.






BY: SANDY 3/26/06

cricket said...

Kelly sells herself short. True, when a criminal steals the life of a child the parent can never close the door on the emptyness; nor should he/she. All a parent can hope for is peace in dealing with the horrific loss. Our system will never be perfect. Notwithstanding, prosecutors and defense attorneys who strive for Kelly's excellence can make it the best it can be.
Justice answers questions. Justice provides consequences.
Justice promotes responsibility.
Justice produces equity.
Justice ensures accountability.
Justice allows for forgiveness.
Justice is necessary to achieve peace.
Win at all costs....NO, JUSTICE AT ALL COSTS.
Kelly Siegler personifies justice.

A. said...

I apologize for stereo typing you Paralegal Sandy. I was obviously quite wrong, and I'm sorry. But I do question, now that I know you've been there, why you would say that crime victims don't want justice?

And maybe some people love drama, but I don't see what that has to do with justice.

Justice doesn't bring back a loss, or right every wrong, but it does do something. It is a PART of the healing process. And a lack of justice creates additional issues that compound the pain of loss and suffering.

As far as my other post to you; if you have so many kids in your life, including daughters, why would you allow the disparaging of teen-age girls? Why would you sit back and listen to a defense attorney attack the female crime victim, based on her outward appearance? I have both daughters and sons, and I know that outward appearances are just that, and many times have little to do with the motives and intentions and even sophistications, where kids (teens) are concerned.

A. said...

Paralegal Sandy: Again, I'm sorry for your loss--but if the young man that shot your niece, was jumping through loop-holes in the system, if his defense attorney was disparaging your niece, in an effort to avoid the consequences of his actions, perhaps you would feel different.

In a sense, you have an ultimate justice--your perp is dead. But I do understand that the burdens of the crime in your life are enormous, and specific to your situation.

Stan Schneider said...

That is not a problem - either a jury acquits because the State has not proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or a judge suppresses evidence because of an illegal search or other misconduct. Either way there is no determination of guilt. Remember - it is better for nine guilty people to be set free than one innocent person be convicted and sent to prison.

A. said...

Whatever you say Stan. Just keep on telling yourself that, to appease what's left of your conscience.

But don't you think this rhetoric of yours belongs under a different post?

Levi said...

Well I disagree, with that last line "it is better for nine guilty people to be set free than one innocent person be convicted and sent to prison."

Those 9 guilty people will be let out and most likely continue being a criminal, especially if they are a sexual predator.

Do the math.

Paralegal Sandy said...

A - If you think about it drama has a lot to do with justice. But what I meant was that I hear a lot of passion in your posts. Passion is closely equivalent to drama. It’s good, keeps things interesting. ----------
I didn’t say they didn’t want justice. I said closure and justice is over rated. I said all they really want is their loved one back. You’re right, he paid the ultimate price. But it was little comfort.
We all would rather he hadn’t killed her. We all rather he hadn’t taken it upon himself to make the whole event take place. That is the only thing that could truly right a wrong. ----------
In Katherine’s blog I believe you and I see two different thing in the subject. She says, “ Should sex offenses ALWAYS be MAJOR” Let me compare her article to this example. 1 - A man meets two buddies at a sports bar for lunch. They have one beer with lunch. When they leave the bar the guy is stopped by a State Patrolman. The state has a no tolerance law so the guy is charged with DUI. 2 - There is another guy. He’s been at the bar all day throwing back shooters with friends and drinking Margaritas. He can barley walk to his car. He’s already had two DUI charges in the last six months. In one of those DUI charges he ran into a car injuring a mother and child. Tonight he runs a stop sign and kills the driver. So ...... do both of these guys deserve to be sentenced to life in Prison? ----- I don’t know how anyone could possibly despise injustice more than I do. It infuriates me that Mel Ignatoe got off on the double jeopardy technicality. After the trial where they found him not guilty for lack of evidence, they find a video tape of his entire torture and murder of Brenda Shaefer. Now he can’t be tried for that again and he will be able to walk around free among society with the possibility of preying on some one else in the same way. It burns me up every time I think about it. ---------------------- Or the woman that stomped her four year old step daughter to death. She went free for twenty years. When they finally charged her she got four year of time in prison. ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? Someone needs to take her out in a field and tie her down, then let a great big elephant come out and stomp her to death. That might begin to make me feel like a little justice has taken place because isn’t justice supposed to be balancing the scales? --------------

A - I am not the enemy.

cricket said...

Stanley Schneider needs to differentiate philosophy 101 from reality. First of all it IS a problem when justice is sold down the river and a guilty man is acquitted. A "politically correct" voir dire, inter alia, that produces a taited jury mocks our judicial system. Justice mandates fairness to be credible. Fairness requires we exercise common sense in the application of criminal procedure.
Employing "Bizzare Stanley Logic 101", let's evaluate the following hypothetical: Ten buddies decide to eat lunch in a cave. There is only one small opening to the airtight cave. Each of the 10 men manage to barely squeeze through the small opening to enter the cave. After a large meal the men decide to leave the cave. Stanley is the 1st man to leave, but gets stuck 1/2 way out of the hole. The philisophical issue assumes the following givens:
1. if Stanley is not removed from the hole within 8 hours all the oxygen in the cave will be depleted and his 9 buddies will perish;
2. it will take 9 hours for Stanley to metabolize enough fat to squeeze out of the hole unharmed;
3. the only way for the 9 remaining men to survive is to sacrifice Stanley;
4. 1 of the 9 trapped men has a stick of dynamite; and
5. should the trapped men decide to blow Fat Stanley out of the hole they will all survive except for Stanley.
So should we sacrifice 1 innocent man to save 9 other innocent men?
How about if 100 innocent men were left behind in the cave? How about a whole county of men women and children, such as Harris County? Stanley cannot think outside of his twisted narrow box to appreciate the harm to society as a whole when he advocates the wholesale acquittal of criminals. The O.J.'s of America are guilty and should be in prison. If Stanley can't accept that basic fact he needs a whole lot of therapy.......

Denholm said...

I've always been amazed at the whole concept of "closure." There is NO way that victims of violent crime can ever have closure. Do people think that after an execution, the victims say, "Well, that's that. What's for dinner?" No, they're life was forever changed when the officer knocked on the door to deliver the news.

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right about closure. There is none for the family of murder victims. As a prosecutor, I learned long ago not to tell the survivors, who are crime victims themselves, that they will receive closure from the process of prosecution.

Grace under pressure is a trait that I have come to admire in the survivors of murder and in violent crime victims. The victims who submit themselves to scrutiny in the punishment portion of a murder trial, or for that matter, often a child abuse/murder trial, are often victimized again by defense counsel.

There are some classy defense lawyers out there, who realize that, just as there is generally no point in the State vigorously crossing the defendant's momma in the punishment phase, that there is no point in destroying a murder survivor or a child sex or physical assault victim in the punishment phase either.

Likewise, prosecutors, police and those who work with them need to be aware of secondary wounding, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. As I suspect has happened to many violent crime prosecutors and police investigators, giving a voice to the victims of crime in the courtroom can cause mental stress and trauma to the prosecutor as well.

My heroes? Well, it's not usually the defense attorney. It is the crime victims who walk into that courtroom knowing they will be further scarred for life because some mouthy defense attorney is gonna try to castigate them beyond belief in the misguided hope that this will earn their {guilty} client a few points with the jury. Or because the defense attorney is just enabling the client's rage at being found guilty.

As a recurring example of this, I submit the child sex assault victim. Let's say, a ten year old, painted as a seductive hussy by a defense attorney, only because his predatory client "says" the child initiated the sex encounter and only because the defense attorney either does not have enough moral fortitude to do the right thing or perhaps because he believes the same things the predatory client does...i.e. that a ten year old can be a seductive hussy.

Although I count many fine people who happen to be defense attorneys as my friends, when I see child sex crime victims or their families terrorized on the stand after a guilty verdict, in the back of my head I think that the defense attorney will one day have to answer to a higher God about their behavior with these child victims.

You can call it being dedicated to the client, you can call it whatever you like, but in the punishment phase, beating up on child victims and their families where the jury has found their allegations to be true is nothing more than child abuse itself. And there is no closure from that either.

Greg Gilleland

A. said...

Greg; Your 6th paragraph would be very fitting in the next post down

You've really stated my own feelings quite well, in your entire post.

And I likewise agree with what you've said about closure from the process of prosecution, although in reality, this is entirely elusive with appeals, parole boards, etc.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, A, for your compliments.

I wanted to append my other post with a couple of other thoughts.

First, I greatly admire, but certainly have disagreed professionally, with both Katherine Scardino and Stanley Schneider, both of whom have posted on this thread. And both of them have always been challenging adversaries. My comments above were not directed at either of these individuals.

Secondly, I feel it is important for prosecutors to attempt to "empower" victims/survivors (I'll refer to both groups as victims although sometimes the CCP does not define them officially in this manner. None the less, they are crime victims.)

By empower I mean to give them input into the process, and keep them very informed if they so request. In a large DA's office, I know it is hard to give personal attention of a substantial level to every case. But those major cases often involve much interaction between the victim and the prosecutor, often with the wonderful assistance of a victim-witness coordinator.

I think it is important for the prosecutor to be honest with the victim about all facets of the case, from the tactics of the defense lawyers, the sentencing range I feel that is likely, etc.

I think it is of paramount importance to listen to the victim, and in cases where their preferences can be accomodated, to accomodate them. Sometimes this is not possible, but often just the opportunity to be heard greatly eases stress on a victim.

If you think about it, victims are the unwilling participants in criminal cases, along with some witnesses. Everyone else is there by choice. The offender, by the choice of his actions. The lawyers, judges, police, etc, are all there because that is what they do. But the victim is often drug into the justice system through no fault of their own, and without due regard for their rights.

Rest in peace, Judge Walton, and I'd like to close with this quote about him from the Chronicle article regarding his life and death.

"What most people would tell you is that he was a man of incredible integrity and honesty," said Gib Walton. "Before he would start any meeting he would say, 'Before we say anything, we all need to agree that what we all want to do is what is right.' "

What a great outlook on life and on justice!

dudleysharp said...

I know of no victim survivor who believes that the execution of the guilty murderer(s) brings closure to the emotional and/or psychological suffering  of that victim survivor for the loss of their innocent, murdered loved one(s).

How could it?
I have never encountered such a person, in the many years I have been involved with murder victim survivors. Has anyone?
There are many victims survivors who claim they did find closure with the execution, although without important clarification.
Further inquiry would reveal the obvious: it is closure the the legal process, whereby execution is the most just sanction available for the crime and they are relieved that the murderer is dead  and can no longer harm another innocent - a very big deal.
Those are the real meanings of any closure expression.

Murder victim "Mary Bounds' daughter, Jena Watson, who watched the execution, said Berry's action deprived the family of a mother, a grandmother and a friend, and that pain will never go away."

" "We feel that we have received justice," she said Wednesday after the execution. "There's never an end to the hurt from a violent crime. There can never fully be closure. You have to learn to do the best you can. Tonight brings finality to a lot of emotional issues." "

dudleysharp said...

Stan, you really need to reconsider.

kelly said...
Hi Stanley, I notice that of your "three problems that defense attorneys face", you omitted one: the guilty defendant who goes free. Or is that not a problem???

Stan Schneider said...
That is not a problem - either a jury acquits because the State has not proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or a judge suppresses evidence because of an illegal search or other misconduct. Either way there is no determination of guilt. Remember - it is better for nine guilty people to be set free than one innocent person be convicted and sent to prison.

Sharp responds: Those who search for justice are always offended when actual innocents are convicted and the actually guilty are freed. All are aware of the due process protections that can both succeed and fail.

The fact that you believe "that is not a problem" when the guilty go free is a sad commentary on both your humanity as well as your reasoning.

I am a strong believer in the strength of due process and I respect your knowledge and abilities, more than you know, but the actually guilty going free is a major problem.

I am always angry when police, prosecutors, defense counsel or judges screw up and cause the disastorous outcomes that we have all seen, inclusive of the actually guilty going free.

Remember - it is best for nine guilty people get convicted and one innocent person be acquitted.

How many Innocent Projects are there to protect innocents harmed by known guilty criminals released - an incredible problem, far outpacing actual innocents incarcerated? Both important issues.

katherine scardino said...

Goodness! I'm out of the loop for 2 days and you are having a really interesting discussion. As a member of Women in Crime Ink and a defense lawyer, I want to put in my 2 cents. I hurt unbelievably for the crime victim's family. There have been times when I have had to excuse myself and go have a cry in a private place. I agree - there would never be closure for me - ever. As Kelly said, the trial, the appellate process and even the execution is simply a process they must endure until the finality of the criminal justice "system". There is nothing anyone can do to lessen the grief of the family of a murdered mother, sister or brother, or even worse, if possible - a child. And all of you can scream all you want to, but the trial process is for the defendant - not the victim. It is the defendant who must face his/her accusor and present a defense, if there is one. If he fails, and believe me, this occurs much, much more than the situation Stan described, he faces his punishment handed down by a jury of 12 people just like all of you. The punishment is not issued by the defense lawyer, by the prosecutor or in most cases by a judge - but by a jury. A jury is comprised of people from the community. So, that means you. You decide what happens to the accused person.

But, if the subject is the immeasurable, indescribable, aching hurt of the victim's family - how could anyone disagree with that?

A. said...

Katherine says:
"There is nothing anyone can do to lessen the grief of the family of a murdered mother, sister or brother, or even worse, if possible - a child"

This may be true, but there are certainly ways that "we" can compound that grief, and make it worse. Much worse, in fact.

The true opposite of justice is injustice, and this always adds tremendous heart ache and burden to those that suffer with the grief of a complex loss.
Continually watching a perp jump through the hoops of our legal systems is very difficult for survivors. If everyone remembered this, it would be helpful, but with people like Stan, who think "there's no problem...", there's not much hope.

katherine scardino said...

Regardless of what you read from Stan's posting, I know Stan Schneider and he is not insensitive to the victims. We have both been around long enough to see some pretty mean things happen to people at the criminal courthouse. But, back to the subject - which I thought was the hurt of the families of victims. And, I know we can all agree that it is immeasureable.

A. said...

Katherine says:
"Regardless of what you read from Stan's posting, I know Stan Schneider and he is not insensitive to the victims."

Hmm, ok. I detect a bit of professional "back-scratching", but whatever. I simply read what he wrote. I didn't perceive any empathy for victims, but ok--if you say so. Perhaps he just doesn't come across very well in writing.?

Katherine says:
"But, back to the subject - which I thought was the hurt of the families of victims."

? Very strange wording, but ok. Yes I agree, let's stay on subject. I can't see where we got off course, except for, maybe, your defense of Stan.

I hate to appear antagonistic, but you've got a very distinct, if not insulting way about you Katherine. I realize that it must be difficult to not view every situation as combative when you're a defense atty, but your tone is a little much for me.

Pete Guither said...

When computing the math, don't forget that when an innocent person is convicted there's generally a guilty person who has gone free in that case -- and now nobody is even looking for them.

There are multiple wrongs when an innocent is convicted. Even if all you care about is math.

Jeff Deutsch said...


I basically agree with Pete.

While with some crimes (including many cases of child molestation), the only issue is what happened and whether it is a crime, not who did it, many other cases are "whodunits" such as most murders and robberies.

Threshing machines are run under much stricter safeguards than lawnmowers, for a good reason. The State machinery needs to be encumbered by due process guarantees, including a strong presumption of innocence.

A State which can convict one innocent person can do it to anyone. A criminal, or even a criminal gang, has a much more limited reach.


Jeff Deutsch

A. said...

Jeff and Pete--are you sure you're posting on the correct thread?

I don't get how your post's relate to the victim and closure.

yellowhousestore said...

Yes you cannot depend on Lawyers or Prosecutors to find the truth.

They just want the forfeitures and feather in the hat for the conviction, whether the person is innocent or not!

That is why we started up our blog sites to expose the corruption to the world that has been thrusted upon us in the last 3 years!

A. said...

You guys are so rude to post under this section.

It's typical that you obviously haven't read here, and you're way off topic.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello A.,

I can't speak for Pete Guither, let alone yellowhousestore, but I have indeed interpreted the discussion as including the relative importance of convictions for the guilty and acquittals for the innocent.

Other posters, such as Stan Schneider and Levi (toward whom you have directed no comments) have also posted on this theme here. After all, people who want closure for the victims want to make sure that the criminals are convicted.

That, of course, depends in part on formal and informal presumptions and due process guarantees; given the same set of evidence on each side, we can change the number of guilty people convicted and the number of innocent people acquitted, so long as we understand that these changes will have to go in opposite directions.

There's a trade-off here, and it needs to be understood by people who demand for convictions for the guilty, including those whose demands stem from a desire to provide closure for victims.

That broader question has caused another blawger to post about this discussion here.

Last but not least, I certainly hope no one seizes on the way you expressed your disagreement to distract attention from this very important issue.

Jeff Deutsch

dudleysharp said...

To state the obvious.

The thread is about whether victimm survivors can attain closure via sanction for the perpetrator.

"The perpetrator", not those falsely accused and improperly convicted of committing the crime.

All of us want the actually guilty to be properly convicted, I hope.

And none of us wants the actually innocent to be convicted or convicted. I hope.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello Dudley,

It certainly is obvious that victims can only obtain closure (if at all) by the punishment of the perpetrators, not of innocent defendants.

What's not so obvious is whether every effort to help victims achieve that closure, especially as it relates to ensuring that more perpetrators are actually convicted, may also affect innocent defendants.

You are right in that no one wants innocent defendants convicted. The next question is what price we are willing to pay to avoid that.

Obviously, the only way to categorically avoid any wrongful convictions is not to have any justice system. That's unacceptable to me, to pretty much everyone I know and presumably to you too.

As you've said before, the ideal outcome is for all guilty people to be convicted and for all innocent people to be acquitted (for that matter, not even arrested). That's the ideal; what we have and will always have is the reality: an imperfect justice system.

As I've said before, it's a trade-off. If you want to help victims gain closure by helping make sure more guilty defendants are convicted, that's going to lead to more innocent defendants being convicted as well.

I think that's quite relevant, and so do Pete Guither, Stan Schneider, Levi and Jamie Spencer (the blawger who wrote about this and to whose post I gave a link).

In any case, since some people feel that this is off-topic, I will post no more about it here, except that I might respond to any further replies to my comments here.


Jeff Deutsch

Paralegal Sandy said...

Jeff - What "SOME" people? Only one person is complaining and the only reason she comes here is to attack others. She's rude and inconsiderate. It's easy to do that when you can hide behind a computer screen.
From her posts she doesn't comprehend what others write very well anyway.
Ignore her!

A. said...

Paralegal Sandy--If you are talking about me, and that's one big "if", then you are entirely mistaken about any point that I've been making.

I'll be honest with you; you seem cold to me. Being that you have specified what you have been through, I am left to assume that you have not dealt with your experience, and you really should. As it stands, you have no concept of what a victim wants, other than to never have been touched by evil in the first place

Unless you have another experience, aside from murder-suicide, then you haven't been through the court system. You didn't watch your perp plead "not guilty", or see him defended by an atty, did you? And you also aren't watching him jump the the court of appeals, attempting to overturn his conviction.
Don't kid yourself.

This comment section was obviously linked to some defensive legal brigade, and I stand by my opinion that it (the recent comments) has little (ok, nothing) to do with the topic at hand.

Sandy, be careful what you say. If you ANY heart, whatsoever, I think you'd feel quite regretful.

Paralegal Sandy said...

I hate to appear antagonistic, but you've got a very distinct, if not insulting way about you Katherine. I realize that it must be difficult to not view every situation as combative when you're a defense atty, but your tone is a little much for me.

LOL - That sounds a lot like the pot calling the kettle black!

I have been a paralegal in a local attorney's office for the last 10 years. I am in court very often and I've seen more than I care to with the court system. So again you have put your foot in your mouth and don't know what your talking about. :)

Cold - funny I feel the same way about you.

You take care of YOUR issues Honey, and I'll worry about mine.

Funny how you knew who I was talking about ... if the shoe fits!!!! Or is it that the guilty dog barks loudest? :)

That last statement about watching what I say sounded a little like a threat. Maybe you should take your own advice.

I rest my case! Unless it requires more defense. LOL

A. said...

Gawd. Of course you work in an atty office, which has NOTHING to do with empathy, and certainly has nothing to do with the realm of experience I'm referring to.

You make my point much better than I ever could.

I'm not going to tit-for-tat with you beyond this; my final comment. But I do truly feel sorry for you, and anyone else who has become so jaded and callous as to how real people feel about certain issues.

I think I've been rather kind to you, Sandy. But since I no longer feel capable of being nice, considering the slew of insults you've directed at me; I'm done.

btw--who are you trying to impress with your "case"?
I think I can guess the answer...

Paralegal Sandy said...

The reason for my posts to you …. or about you .... is because of your insults not only to me, but others also. You are attacking them and that makes me have empathy and want to defend them. I'm not the only one that has called you on it. Remember Anonymous #1 and even Katherine commented that it didn't matter what she said you would disagree. She must know your reputation. No one else is willing to come down to your level to debate the point with you. They have chosen to move on.

When you make comments about my empathy you are flying blind. You don't know me, so your comments are unfounded. Working for an attorney or being an attorney really doesn't tell you much about the person's heart and soul. Your negative remarks about them only make you look ignorant.

There is no one to impress with "MY CASE". You and I are the only ones left here bickering with one another. This thread is dead so I'm glad you are "DONE" because I am ready to move on to the front of the class with the other kids. And perhaps you can find some CLOSURE.

A. said...

Thanks for letting me know who you are and what you're about Sandy.

And the photo helps to. Very much much what I'd picture you to look like.

BTW--you know very well that with this thread linked to a legal blog within your profession, you're putting yourself out there for some exposure.
Good luck with that.

A. said...

Paralegal Sandy says:
"Working for an attorney or being an attorney really doesn't tell you much about the person's heart and soul."

I very much agree with you here.

What is revealing is the opinions one exposes, what one chooses to defend in life, and the tone one takes with other people.

It's no stretch to believe in the coldness of the defense attorney. Especially when that attorney publicly states their position on issues, and compares their clients emotional loss to those of the victim.

And now, thanks to you Paralegal Sandy, we've been given a bit of insight on the emotional make-up of paralegals, and those who work for and with defense atty's.

But, in the spirit of open-mindedness, I won't write off all paralegals as arrogant and cold-hearted just yet. It's only fair that each one of us should have an opportunity to show ourselves for who we are, before judgment is passed.

I do love these boards, as I generally learn something new everyday.

Btw--so sorry I couldn't keep my word about not commenting further. You just keep me thinking :)

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CJ Social Worker said...

In my job working with people who have been victimized, they often say they want their lives to be "normal" and "go back to the way it was."

This is a good opportunity to talk about how their lives will never "be the same." Not to be hopeless, but to help people accept where their lives are headed.

No - it won't be the same - but it doesn't mean that the pain will always be so fresh.

Recently, a former client came to see me after 2 years. She wanted to look at the photos of when she'd been stabbed by her ex-boyfriend. She said her family thought she was crazy and why didn't she just move on. I understand why they'd think that - they want her to be happy. But, I also understand why she can't. She needs to reconcile what happened, why it happened, what it felt like, how she can ever feel safe or normal.

So - she looked at the pictures. I let her lead me - and she talked about how she felt then - how she feels now - I pointed out her strenths, what she'd done right, how her life would always be different, but the main thing is that she doesn't have to be defined by the worst thing that ever happened to her.

paralegal schools said...

I really like this quote about closure : "“Well, the thought came to me that, for many of us who did this show, and for many people who watched the show, just because Johnny left there, didn't give them the closure they needed. But I would say that his passing gave us that closure, because I think we all realize now that he's not coming back.”

Amazing and touching post.


Boyness said...

I like Stan Schneider and find myself in agreement with most of what he has to say. At the same time, if myself or any of my friends or family were victimized, I pray Kelly is the D.A. Thank God we have both of you in the Harris County Justice System!

Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for this. As a long-time victim of abuse, I have struggled and struggled with this thing called, closure. Finally, I came to ask, is there such a thing as closure? That is how I came across this article. Thank you for affirming what I have come to believe.