Big things happen when the squeaky wheel is greased, and from unlikely sources.
During the unexpected experience of a parole board hearing, Donna Gore aka “LadyJustice” and her family found themselves facing circumstances that were unwanted and unplanned. 34 years after losing their beloved husband and father, the murderer was up for parole, able to do so because of “good time” served.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make big differences to the comfort level of a victim of crime. One of the things that the Gore family did not want known to the person convicted of murdering their loved one was their identities at the parole hearing. A crime victim should not have to ask what rights are available to them, however, in the course of criminal history, many victims don’t know what rights to ask for or who to question.
Former Connecticut State Victim Advocate, now a private attorney, Michelle S. Cruz was retained by the family to offer legal representation and advocacy during the short preparatory period before the parole hearing which was another complaint by the Gores, only 2-4 weeks to prepare themselves for an emotional trauma they thought was behind them.
Combining the advocacy and legal expertise of Attorney Cruz, and the tenacity of LadyJustice, they were able to receive what they asked for in terms of retaining anonymity during the parole hearing. Following the hearing Attorney Cruz made calls to the Office of Victim Advocates highlighting the specific issues and that she and Gore would like to present a list of changes to the office, and followed up with a letter clarifying and itemizing each point.
At a subsequent victims’ rights conference, Donna Gore was able to be briefly introduced to the new State Victim Advocate, Garvin G. Ambrose, related her grievances and asked for a formal meeting to discuss the situation. After several cordial emails, a face to face meeting took place and progress was made.
It was announced in a press release on August 12, 2013 that the Office of Victim Services in Connecticut adopted a policy, along with the Pardon and Parole Board, for “Victim Anonymity” allowing crime victims to participate meaningfully on the record at a parole hearing without revealing their identity.
Although there were a few other issues discussed with Mr. Ambrose, LadyJustice and Attorney Cruz both feel that this is a positive step forward for all victims of crime who come before the parole board in the future. They are also working on improving education for crime victims about what rights are available to them, how to properly use them, and what to do if their rights are violated or ignored.
Donna R. Gore, “LadyJustice” is the host of a national radio show titled, Shattered Lives, which promotes discussion about the aftermath of crime through the eyes of those who have experienced first hand. It also serves as a platform for fostering education about available resources on a large variety of issues. She also blogs on a regular basis on her website, DonnaGore.Com, and is a contributor to the crime victims rights blog, Time’s UP.
Donna R. Gore has recently been accepted as a consultant and trainer with the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and can be requested through OVC to be a presenter or speaker at conferences, convention, or community organizations throughout the country. OVC, through OVC TTAC, provides training on an array of instructor-led topics relevant to the field of victim services.
Attorney Michelle S. Cruz, former head of the Connecticut OVA, is now in private practice, is a Lecturer at Law at the University ofConnecticut, School of Law, and serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Bay Path College and Capital Community College. She has been vocal recently about the issue of disbursement of donated funds for the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in a series of media appearances and print articles.
Michelle Cruz is also a consultant and trainer, as well as peer reviewer, with the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). She has appeared recently at several national conferences to present and speak about the rights of crime victims.