Saying One Thing and Doing Another
When leadership of NOVJL met with leadership of the Pendulum Foundation a few years ago, they stated that they wanted to “do the right thing by victims” but their actions have shown the opposite. Legislation was filed without notice or warning. They insisted in Legislative testimony that victims cannot claim a right to be notified of their bills, even though the legislation would retroactively undo a life without parole sentence for the convicted, guilty, first degree murderers that killed their family members. Refusing to share information about who the affected offenders are, so that their victims might be found. Calling the offenders victims. Saying that talking with one representative of one victim group consitutes notifying and respecting ALL the affected victims of their proposed legislation. Calling us vengeful for wanting to be notified of legislation that would affect the sentence of the killer that murdered our loved ones. Calling us vengeful for wanting a convicted first degree murderer to serve a life sentence. And the list goes on.
A Letter from Offender Advocates Makes Excuses for Excluding Victims
We think this letter below, published on the internet, tells the story. Our response to this email is below.
To a Colorado Representative who voted against legislation to free teen killers early, from an Offender Advocate, March 2011:
I would like to address your specific complaint that both victims and offenders were not brought into the process. The Pendulum Foundation has run legislation for several years and from the very beginning we tried to bring victims into the negotiations. One year we crafted a bill in which restorative justice would have played a prominent part in any process before any offender could be freed. We sat down at the table with the DAs and victims and both said there was nothing wrong with the system and they weren’t interested in ANY changes in ANY legislation. We asked them to help us craft changes. We said we’re willing to listen and to compromise.
We were told NO. We were always told NO, NO, NO.
What you don’t realize is that victims WERE brought to the table during this current process. The DAs speak for the victims. [The bill sponsors] spoke to the DAs many times about this bill. The DAs weren’t interested in any compromising or any negotiation. And they always say that they represent the victims. So, are you saying that if victims and their emissaries say “no,” we’re supposed to forget those 48 who will die behind bars merely because they inconveniently committed their crimes in the wrong span of years? Are you telling us that you can ONLY listen to the victims who seek vengeance and ignore the voices of those who cry out for mercy?
We did consult victims about this legislation. In addition to the DA’s who speak on behalf of all those they brought to the hearing, we discussed this bill with victims who supported our efforts. They just aren’t the “appropriate” victims, I guess, because they have forgiven and they want to see this legislation passed.
Victims come in many forms, not only the forms of those who testified yesterday. Family members of those young prisoners are victims. Many of those young men were victims long before they victimized others. I find it interesting that we focus on the murder of a body, but we never focus on the murder of a child’s soul, as we failed to do in the cases of the two abused kids who killed their parents and are serving life. Our outrage is very selective. Our compassion is very selective.
Vengeance is not justice. Vengeance is simply vengeance. We must be better than that.
Mary Ellen Johnson, Executive Director, Pendulum Foundation
Dear Mary Ellen –
We are the “appropriate” victims who have had a family member murdered by the teen killers you have filed legislation to free early from their life sentences. Talking to other crime victims not affected by the 48 JLWOP cases in Colorado is not talking to us. Talking to prosecutors is not talking to victims. Talking to only the victims who agree with your position, as at least one of the victims families of the 48 has, does not excuse you from talking to and respecting the rights of the rest. You cannot say you have done the right thing by the victims of these crimes until you have found and notified every single one of the families of the 48 convicted murderers you are seeking early release for. No other victims count.
And we are not vengeful people and you should stop painting us as such, just because we sometimes support life sentences for convicted murderers. Most people do. We are however traumatized people and your tactics are hurting us more. You need to stop.
Here is a letter about the Pendulum Foundation to the Colorado Senate from the family of one of the murder victims:
bill with victims who supported our efforts. They just aren’t the ‘appropriate’ victims, I guess.” There are no appropriate or inappropriate victims. *All* of the victims’ families deserve to heard and represented throughout the process, not just those few that support the Pendulum Foundation’s efforts to free these murderers. To exclude the victims’ families from the process because you don’t like what they are going to say is not conducive to an open or honest process.