Victims Voices in Colorado

 

The effort in Colorado to retroactively free teen killers sentenced to natural life for exceptionally heinous crimes has not ended with the defeat of HB 1287 in March 2011. Victims families of these offenders will not be given the legal finality they deserve as long as the Pendulum Foundation, funded by the wealthy family of one of the offenders, continues their campaign that has deliberately attempted to exclude the victims’ families voices from these crimes.

8 Responses to Victims Voices in Colorado

  1. Ben says:

    To Members of the House Judiciary Committee:

    I am writing concerning yesterday’s hearing on HB 11-1287. My cousin, Matthew Foley, was a victim of Trevor Jones, one of the killers who would have been eligible for parole had the bill passed. I am not in Colorado and wasn’t able to attend but I listened to the hearing in its entirety online. (At least the portions that were available online. It appears that a section of the deliberation and discussion of the bill may have been omitted from the online feed.) I am grateful for the committee’s vote not to forward the bill and I commend the committee for taking what I strongly feel was the correct action.

    As I said, I wasn’t able to attend the hearing to speak myself. And, after listening to the testimony and deliberations and reading subsequent comments in the press, I feel compelled to add some feedback and comments to the committee. Especially since, as one commenter said “we’re going to keep trying and keep trying until we get this passed.”

    For starters, I am continually appalled by attempts to minimize the victims and their families throughout this process. It is not merely an “inconvenience” for families to attend these types of proceedings, as Representative Levy said. It is completely heart-wrenching. Even when they don’t attend in person, just writing a response forces them to re-live the most painful event in their lives. Three times now my 96-year-old grandfather has had to sit in a room full of strangers and explain the pain of losing his best friend and grandson and my aunt and uncle have been forced to beg the State to implement the sentence it imposed 15 years ago.

    And, if the victims’ families show even a hint of the overwhelming pain and loss the feel they, and those who listen to them, are portrayed as being emotional and unreasonable. This unfortunate truth was borne out yet again by the comments of Representative Levy and Nikkel to the press after the vote. The Pueblo Chieftan quoted Representative Levy as saying “It’s always difficult when you have emotional reactions. They are difficult to separate from what you might do if you make a decision based on reason.” Representative Nikkel added, “Logic would tell you that the public policy aspect of the bill was good. But because it makes people so emotional, it makes it difficult for members of the committee to separate the emotion from the logic of making better policy for the state by separating the juvenile justice system from the adult justice system.” Neither acknowledged that the most emotional witness of the day, by far, was Jennifer Jones, the sister of one of the killers who would be eligible for parole under the bill. This unfair double-standard, in which the vicitms’ families are penalized for their emotions and the offenders’ families are rewarded for theirs, is shameful.

    I would also like to comment on the recurring theme that this bill would have somehow closed a “loophole” that denied these 48 prisoners a chance at parole. Both witnesses and committee members in support of the bill cited the 2006 legislation that prohibited life without parole sentences for juveniles and claimed that this bill just “finished the job” started by that legislation. It appears almost universally accepted, however, that the 2006 legislation only passed because it excluded these 48 offenders. Both Representatives Levy and Nikkel have vigorously extoled the “logic” of HB11-1287. So it seems disingenuous that they could somehow ignore the flaw in the logic that it should be passed based on prior legislation which was only able to pass by removing the retroactivity.

    Finally, I would like to address a comment made by Representative Lee. He said that he was voting yes because he wanted to provide these offenders with “hope.” I think it is important to recognize that as long as you are providing hope for the killers, you are denying anything approaching closure for the victims’ families. Losing a loved one to random, senseless violence is extremely hard to come to terms with. Yesterday’s testimony provided you all a small glimpse into what that is like. The “life without parole” sentence is supposed to allow families to proceed with the healing process without the prospect of having to re-visit that hurt and sorrow at some unspecified future date when the killer becomes eligible for parole. HB11-1287, and other legislation that would retroactively grant parole eligibility to those whose sentences expressly deny it, adds an uncertainty to the healing process that continually and unfairly re-victimizes the families.

    Sincerely,
    Benjamin Gregg

  2. Justin Carmichael says:

    I watched the PBS Frontline documentary “When Kids Get Life”. One of the cases it profiled was the killing of Matthew Foley. Matt Foley was not some totally innocent kid – he was out trying to purchase a GUN, from another TEENAGER, and he was doing it at NIGHT. You know how you purchase a gun??? You go to a GUN SHOP during the DAY and you buy it – and you REGISTER it. He couldn’t even have legally purchased the gun – he was underage (they both were). Foley wasn’t even buying the gun for himself – it was for a COUSIN – who buys GUNS for relatives??? – they should go out and buy their own gun and REGISTER it in THEIR OWN NAME. Ask yourself this question: At age 16, would YOU have been out trying to buy a gun for somebody else?, and do it at night and trying to buy it from another teenager??? I mean, this doesn’t even pass the smell test. It’s like drugs – if you hang around with people who do drugs, or sell drugs, you should expect trouble to occur – extreme trouble. You go out and try to buy a gun from a teenager at night, you should expect trouble. Matt Foley’s mother, Gail Palone, comes across in the documentary as a vengeful and spiteful woman. She just can’t accept that her son got involved in an illegal gun sale at night that went wrong – no different from a drug transaction at night that ends up with somebody getting killed – the only difference is that given that the commodity being sold was a gun itself, it makes perfect sense that it was an accident in an attempted robbery. Gail Palone claims it was cold-blooded murder. She needs to look at what her son was doing that night.

  3. NOVJL says:

    Thank you for posting at the NOVJL website. We have approved the post, though we reserve the right to edit out anything that is hurtful to victims and untrue. We are a site that supports victims families and we do not want to allow additional re-traumatization to families that have suffered so much. We know you are all the way down in Australia, from your email address, and so we want to try to educate you on the bigger picture. First, we do not have gun registration in the United States. You are not familiar with our gun laws, and what you have described is not applicable in the United States. Second, in fact you are absolutely wrong about Gail Palone and her family – the documentary film maker did a HORRIBLE job (or a good job if you love propaganda) and created a very biased film – minimizing the culpability of the criminals, and making the victims look like the bad guys. We think how that filmmaker portrayed Gail was a crime. We know Gail, you do not. She is an amazing woman: brave, good, deeply caring. She has her eyes wide open about the crime and knows the whole picture, whereas you know only what a propaganda film maker wanted you to know. There is much about the killer that was NOT told in the film. Matthew Foley was an innocent murder victim. No one asks to be murdered. Nothing anyone ever does justified being murdered. No one deserves to be murdered. So do not pass judgment based on one propaganda film. But thank you for contributing to the discussion!

  4. Justin Carmichael says:

    You’re right – I DON’T know the laws in the State of Colorado. I take your word that registering is not required . . . . . but I kind of suspect that a gun shop will be able to register it for you with the police if you want, or that you can take a gun that you purchase down to the police and have the gun registered (it would help if the gun ever got stolen, so I assume the police want that and do that in Colorado). I just know that I would never in a million years want to own a gun that wasn’t registered. And you’re right – all I saw was the documentary – well, not quite – I did a little internet research after watching the film (that’s how I found this site), and I found that even Matthew Foley’s friend who was with him testified at the trial that it was an accident. Yes, nobody deserves to be killed – just as nobody deserves to die because they get hit by a drunk driver – and if were a judge, I wouldn’t have a problem with giving a long sentence to a multiple drunk driving arrestee – but this sentence just seems to boggle the mind – he got the same sentence as Charles Manson, but this guy was a teenager – 17 years old – and it appears to have genuinely been an accident – albeit in the commission of a crime – although this sort of crime (the robbery) can only be committed during the act of another crime (the illegal purchase of a gun) – I mean, that’s how the mafia gets away with charging a “street tax” on drug dealers – the dealers can’t go to the police. The sentence just seems wildly inappropriate. As the state’s appeals lawyer said, what led to this sort of sentencing came from England and it’s been banned there for ages. Oh, and yes, I’m sure this Trevor Jones guy WAS a nastier piece of work than portrayed in the documentary (I mean, after all, he WAS dealing a illegal firearm – it’s like comparing the drug dealer to the drug buyer – the dealer has got to be the worse person – and he was also robbing his buyer at the same time, and that is another step up in the criminal hierarchy). Maybe you just shouldn’t have guns in America – get your murder rate down to a European level. And the documentary didn’t tell me why the cousin wanted a gun (why would you want a gun???) And it just seems crazy to have these draconian sentencing laws but have a h0-hum attitude towards registering guns. And you can apparently buy ammo (and guns) at places like K-Mart and WalMart. It’s just crazy – you’re asking for trouble.

  5. Ben says:

    “Wow, what an informative and thought-provoking documentary that was. I wonder if I can find someplace online where I can bad-mouth that kid who got shot and his mother? Let me just check Google…”

    Your post is so ill-informed and self-righteous that I don’t even know where to begin. (As I said in my earlier post, Matthew Foley is my cousin and Gail Palone is my aunt so, while I may not have the same intimate knowledge of the situation that you do from your extensive Frontline watching, I may still have some insight.) I guess I’ll start with your completely false characterization of Matthew, someone you are sitting in judgment of despite having never met. Matthew could not be any different from the person you, and the producer of the Frontline propaganda hour, are trying to portray him as.

    Matthew was a completely kind, generous and selfless kid. It was that kindness that put him in the position of being there that night. The cousin you refer to, who he was trying to help that night, was more like the person you are trying to make Matthew out to be. He had been in trouble before, and having pissed off the wrong people, he was afraid and had convinced himself that he needed a gun for his own protection. Having a record, and a broken moral compass, he asked his innocent younger cousin for the favor of getting it for him. In a moment of bad judgment and misguided family loyalty, Matthew agreed. He did a dumb thing to help a family member in trouble. (And, since you seem to enjoy hypothetical rhetorical questions: What would *you* do if a family member told you his life was in danger and his only hope was if you would do something illegal to help him?) While Matthew agreeing to help was definitely a mistake, it was hardly one that should have cost him his life and it doesn’t make Trevor Jones any less culpable in killing him.

    Then there is your gross mischaracterization of Matthew’s mother. Again, you are remarkably judgmental about someone who you “know” from seeing 5 minutes of footage in a documentary about efforts to free her son’s killer. To make the point of their show, Frontline used footage to make Trevor’s family look sad and sympathetic and Matthew’s family look angry and vengeful. While I would like to believe that most people are smart enough to recognize when they are being spoon-fed a point of view and take it with a grain of salt, your post is proof that at some people are still gullible enough to swallow it hook, line and sinker.

    Again, you obviously have a deep and thorough understanding of Gail’s feelings having seen her on TV and all, but just in case someone less informed stumbles across this site, maybe I can add my humble insight about someone I have literally known my entire life. Gail’s only child was killed by a guy who was robbing him, *after* he had already taken his money. All the guy had to do was walk away but instead, to see what it was like, he shot and killed Matthew instead. They arrested the guy, put him on trial, found him guilty, and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He appealed and the appeals court upheld his conviction and sentence. That alone is more trauma than most people will ever experience in their lives and in any sort of just world, Gail would then be free to try to heal and grieve. But instead, her son’s killer becomes a *cause* because he was a few months shy of his 18th birthday when pulled the trigger. So now she has to deal with articles in the paper about how the killer isn’t such a bad guy – look, he got a haircut in prison and he’s learning Aramaic ’cause that’s the language Jesus spoke! – and trying to paint her son as somehow deserving what happened to him. One of the people behind the *cause* of murderous 17-year old thugs asks her to be interviewed. In the interview she says that her son’s killer should serve the sentence he was given. Nothing more. She isn’t advocating that he get a worse sentence than the one he received at the end of his trial, she just doesn’t think he should get a lighter one, either.

    She’s sad and misses her son, too, but that doesn’t help the producer’s position so those parts of the interview are cut out. (Don’t want to take away from the impact of Trevor’s sister crying, after all.) So the unfairly one-sided Frontline piece airs. And now, in addition to the loss of her only child and the constant battle of rich, influential people trying to free his killer, she has end endless supply of keyboard tough guys on the internet who think they are somehow qualified to pass judgment on her and her son’s memory.

    I really hope my aunt doesn’t see this because she has been through more than enough. (Not that I think your uninformed opinion would bother her. She’s a lot stronger than that.) And I realize that I’m not going to change your mind because people so fond of WRITING IN ALL CAPS and using several punctuation marks in a row are rarely open to admitting that their myopic judgment might be flawed. But, on the off-chance someone stumbles across this page and reads your completely off-base take on Gail Palone and Matthew Foley, I thought it was important that the truth be represented as well.

  6. jbjenkins says:

    I have to agree with you about the problems that America’s easy access to guns, with virtually no regulation, has caused for us. 30,000 gun deaths a year, almost half homicides, the rest suicides and accidents. Most countries only have dozens or a handful. No other nation even comes close. 100,000 injured. 100 billion in associated annual costs with guns. It is definitely a problem here. But take that discussion to the gun issue websites please.

  7. Justin Carmichael says:

    Ben, you wrote, “What would YOU do if a family member told you his life was in danger and his only hope was if you would do something illegal to help him?” ANSWER: I certainly wouldn’t go out and buy him a gun. A person that gets into that sort of situation really has only one alternative – get out of town. I would have told him he’s going to have to live someplace else – probably another state – for the next several years – even if it is in a homeless shelter. It won’t be a lifetime – his drug dealer enemies (I presume they were drug dealers) would end up dead or in prison within a few short years. Your solution is what I would call a “Wyatt Earp” solution – and the fact that you would suggest it just goes to show the extent to which twisted thinking has taken hold in America (by the way, I grew up in America). I can’t believe you would suggest buying a gun, or carrying a gun, as “protection” against people that you have angered enough that they want to kill you. In a nutshell, it is that sort of thinking that got Matthew Foley killed – he obviously didn’t think it was strange or twisted thinking either. But I know where it comes from – I grew up in Oklahoma – it is part of the macho thinking and macho culture that we grew up with. I would hazard a guess that if Matthew Foley had grown up in Europe – or even Canada or places in America like Maine, he would have immediately recognised that buying a gun, or getting a gun, or getting involved with a gun, is just craziness. It is part of your culture. And when you have guns around you, guns in your homes, guns where kids can get to them, guns that can be bought without registration, etc, etc, you have to expect accidents. But the solution is not to then take satisfaction from vengeance on the idiot who committed the accident. I read where Foley’s friend that was with him said in court that it was an accident. To me, there were two tragic sequence of events in this case: (1) the idiot pointing the gun at Foley to scare him (and it going off), and (2) Foley not immediately recognising that being asked to buy a gun should set off alarm bells, on a par with a friend/cousin asking, “Hey buddy, can you score some heroin for me???” Heroin has a bad reputation in America; guns do not.

  8. Ben says:

    Being anti-gun is certainly your right and I really have no interest in arguing “gun culture.” (Although I lived in Maine and met plenty of hunters there. Not everyone who owns guns is trying to be Wyatt Earp or demonstrate their machismo.) But, regardless of your personal feelings about guns, to blame the victim of a shooting because of his involvement in a gun purchase is no better than saying a rape victim was “asking for it” because of how she was dressed. Or, to use your completely inappropriate analogy, if Matthew had been buying heroin instead, should Trevor have received a lesser sentence for shooting him? Personally, I don’t believe Matthew’s shooting was an accident. For starters, I also grew up around guns and hunters and I never once saw, or even heard of, a gun that just “went off” when someone pointed it. Guns fire when you pull the trigger. Period. So Trevor loaded the gun, cocked it, pointed it at Matthew’s head, put his finger inside the trigger guard and exerted enough force on the trigger for it to fire. Where exactly is the “accident” in those 5 steps? Secondly, that night wasn’t the first time Trevor pointed that gun at someone and pulled the trigger. The first time he tried it, he had either loaded it incorrectly or it jammed. But the fact that he spent the whole afternoon prior to shooting Matthew polishing the gun and bullets shows predetermination to not have that happen again. Lastly, you keep using the word vengeance. Since when is the application of the law considered vengeance instead of justice? Ratko Mladic is being tried for war crimes. If the international court finds him guilty and imposes sentence, are they being vengeful or are they being just? Even if you think Trevor accidentally shot Matthew, the fact is he did it while robbing him at gunpoint. And the law clearly states that if you shoot someone while robbing him, you are guilty of first degree murder regardless of your intent. The idea behind it is that fewer people will use guns to commit crimes because even if they claim the shooting was an “accident”, they are still culpable. Whether it’s an effective law or not, it’s still the law. There are plenty of laws that I disagree with but I don’t think it’s “vengeance” for the state to impose the sentence on people who knowingly break them.
    If you disagree with the law and want to rail against someone, try the lawmakers who came up with the law. But to be so unfairly judgmental of a truly good kid and his grieving mother – neither of whom you have ever met – is just cowardly.

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