News Media wishing to speak to victims families please see our Speaker’s Bureau Page –
– OR –
NOVJM@aol.com or call Jody Robinson 248-736-1737 or call Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins 312-882-4584
Other legal experts: Charles “Cully” Stimson, legal expert on juvenile offender sentencing, author of Adult Time for Adult Crimes: Life Without Parole for Juvenile Killers & Violent Teens email@example.com, 202-608-6178
PODCASTS AND SHOWS
Billion Dollars to Free Teen Killers! featuring NOVJM volunteer “Jane.”
Smithsonian Magazine publishes our letter.
Consider the Victims
While I have long known Bryan Stevenson [“New Life”], admired his intellect and worked at his side to abolish the death penalty, I am also the member of a family that includes three people murdered by a juvenile sentenced to life without parole. Stevenson’s contention that the United States is alone in such harsh sentences, and we are “sentencing children to die” have been only a little less troubling than his unwillingness to embrace the victims of these crimes in his well-funded juvenile justice reform campaign. But we expect better from Smithsonian magazine. There should have been at least passing mention of the victims murdered by Mr. Stevenson’s clients. Victims whose lives have been torturously ended and whose families suffer without end from these crimes. Victims who are so quickly forgotten while their offenders are the focus of well-intentioned social action.
A grieving Ohio family is featured on a national two part Dr. Phil Show.
VIDEOS discussing the issue of Life Sentences for Teen Killers:
Paul Wallace, Delaware Department of Justice, YouTube video on Constitutionality of JLWOP
Video Interviews of Victims of Juvenile Murderers:
Daniel Horowitz, California
Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, Illinois
Jody Robinson, Michigan
Ronald Holt, Illinois
Dawn Romig, Pennsylvania
Associated Press “First Person” video – a victim family member and a juvenile offender:
The American Bar Association held a panel discussion in Florida, April 2011, discussing the “direct file” or mandatory transfer of juvenile offenders into adult court. NOVJM’s President was one of the panelists. The ABA actively opposes victims rights, and largely represents defense attorneys and trial lawyers.
Victims family of teen killer founded the Sheila A. Doyle Foundation in the memory of their murdered mother. Watch the good work the foundation does to help other children of murder attend grief camps and go to college!
NOVJM’s members are active in many other areas, such as violence prevention. Watch NOVJM’s president discuss her work for violence prevention.
This chilling video interviews teen killers in California, openly denying any remorse for their crimes.
While this movie has an agenda in support of ending life sentences for teen killers, it does feature one victim family interview. Lost For Life.
Shattered Lives national podcast from Lady Justice Donna Gore interviews NOVJM.
NOVJL/NOVJM co-founder Jennifer Bishop Jenkins on New Orleans Talk Radio discussing the June 2012 Supreme Court decision.
Youth Radio (NPR California) interviews NOVJM’s President.
BLOGS of interest on the issue of teen killers
Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation has a Crime and Consequences Blog that reports on issues surrounding criminal justice. Some blogs with NOVJM include:
- News Scan from September 25, 2012
- NOVJL was featured on Doug Berman’s award winning Sentencing Law and Policy Blog Guest post on Miller from Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, President of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers
A few weeks ago at the US Sentencing Commission’s annual conference, I had the great pleasure of meeting Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, the President of the National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Lifers (NOVJL). With the juve LWOP cases then still pending before SCOTUS, Jennifer and I had a fascination conversation about how victims of juve lifers would be impacted by a SCOTUS ruling declaring some juve LWOP sentences unconstitutional. Then, after the ruling, I asked Jennifer if she would write a guest-post for this blog, and here is what she kindly sent me for posting, reprinted in full:
Victims families’ primary concern in the wake of the Miller v Alabama, Jackson v Hobbs ruling this week from the Supreme Court is for those like us who do not yet know about the case. We have been calling on all those involved to devote themselves now to outreach to affected victims families, hopefully delivering to them all the information and support they need to cope with the new legal realities just created by the Court. We already know that well-funded offender advocates are busily working already to assist many teen killers to file their new legal challenges. We have long been troubled by the significant staff and funding available to help those who murdered our family members, while there has been no assistance whatsoever to the victims families left behind.
But we also are confident that very little in these offenders’ prison sentences will actually change, and here’s why:
While striking down all “mandatory” JLWOP sentences for teen killers, retroactive application of this ruling will be legally challenged in many killers’ sentences. This matter will obviously be heavily litigated (see legal analysis at our website here). Cases still under direct appeal will be re-sentenced, but state legislatures will likely weigh in first, and victims families, along with the general public, can help shape how state legislatures decide to comply with the ruling.
State legislatures can simply make the LWOP sentences optional — then judges can still give them to the offenders. Many will do just that. After the legal tussles shake out, many victims’ families may only have to undergo only ONE additional proceeding with the killer — a new sentencing hearing replacing the mandatory life sentence with what will likely be a virtually equally serious alternative.
While any encounter with the offender in a courtroom will be seriously re-traumatizing for victims families, they will have a right in all 50 states and federally to be notified of these proceedings, to be present, and to make a statement about the impact that the crime had on them before the new sentence is given.
Most offenders that get a re-sentencing opportunity will receive either an optional life without parole sentence (exact same sentence as they got before) or a lengthy term of years that constitutes a virtual life sentence, changing nothing for all intents and purposes. While we know a few will receive some relief, we are predicting that very few teen killers serving life sentences will likely ever be released early from prison.
The Supreme Court has now been asked multiple times to categorically ban JLWOP by attorneys for the offenders, and has repeatedly rejected that request. There was not a SINGLE vote on the Supreme Court to find all life sentences for teen killers unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has stated clearly that life without parole sentences for those rare most serious teen killers is completely constitutional as long as judges can consider the offender’s age as an optional factor in the sentencing process.
While NOVJL only exists to support and inform victims, and we take no specific stand on what sentencing should be (the purview of legislatures and courts) we did have some concerns with the majority opinion as written.
Justice Kagan in writing her majority opinion adopts the propaganda-laden word choice of offender advocates in her ruling calling these convicted murderers “children” (the correct legal term is “juvenile”) and uses the offender advocates’ propaganda line: “children sentenced to die in prison.” We believe that Supreme Court Justices should not use advocacy language so inaccurate and so insensitive to victims. The only people in this discussion with death sentences are our murdered loved ones.
To call a life sentence a death sentence is reminiscent of George Orwell’s futuristic warning novel 1984 in which language loses all meaning: war means peace, love means hate, and lies mean truth. A life sentence is NOT a death sentence. It is a LIFE sentence. Only a death sentence where the offender is to be executed is a death sentence. The way Justice Kagan uses it, the words mean no more than what is true for us all: that we are living this life under a proverbial “sentence of death” — someday. Many victims families have complained of the insensitive lack of distinction between the offender who LIVES on, and our innocent murdered loves ones who suffered horribly and DIED.
Even serving a life sentence, offenders can experience life, love, joy, pleasure, family, relationships, and meaning. They can grow wise, they can educate themselves, they can be helpful to others, they can make a difference, they can be creative, they can make a legacy for their lives, and they can impact others in a positive way. They can choose each day to make good things happen, even from their cells. Many inmates that we admire do just that. They can even express remorse for their crimes and try to be helpful to victims everywhere. They can live. Even from behind bars. They LIVE. The language written in the majority opinion makes no such distinction, and we believe sadly diminishes the Court’s legacy of brilliantly written opinions.
Also, there was no recognition in the majority opinion whatsoever that there were dead victims at the heart of this whole huge discussion. Thankfully, Justices authoring the minority dissent actually mentioned the word “victim”. But the majority opinion gave no thought, apparently, to the impact of this decision on victims families.
Finally, some of us are actually feeling sorry for the families of the offenders affected by this ruling: right now they are likely very happy — even celebrating — feeling hope for the first time since these offenders were convicted of these murders and sent to prison for life. Some are likely even planning the offenders’ homecoming. We know that this is going to end in disappointment for almost all of them. Most of these offenders will never be released from prison, even after all the legal wrangling that this SCOTUS ruling will allow. They committed horrific murders. Most will not likely ever qualify for release anytime soon, even if they are re-sentenced in a way that allows release possibilities.
Juvenile life without parole remains constitutional, rare, and available as a sentence when the facts of the offense and the offender demonstrate that it is appropriate. Our focus remains where it should be: assisting people whose lives have been destroyed by the violent choices of others, and preventing future such tragedies.
- Let’s Change America Blog on SB 9 in California Convicted Murderers to be freed if California Senator gets his way
- SB 9: The Cleanser for Youthful Killers at www.Pacovilla.com corrections blog
- NOVJM posts article in National Juvenile Justice Blog: We encourage all victims and supporters to comment at this site in the hostile debate being waged from the juvenile justice advocacy community.
- Prof. Mark Osler: “Osler’s Razor – Round Two With the Bishop Sisters”
Photo: Mark Osler, a proponent for juvenile sentencing reform, meets with the Bishop sisters in Chicago after the blog was written to discuss public policy and the sentencing of teens who commit murder. In 2009 he said he was advocating for more dialogue between offender advocates and victims families. Starting in 2010 his efforts at dialogue with us completely ceased, and he began to work with the “shut out the victims” strategy of the juvenile justice reformers. By 2012 He and Jeanne co-authored an article on CNN.com, that we were forced to respond to in the comment section, in which they mischaracterized us.
- Grief blog on murder of Conrad Duran of Colorado
- The Injustice Blog: Teen violence against elderly
- Justice Be Served Blog on School Shooters
- Diane Dimond’s Blog Digging Deeper on Teen Killers
- The Foundry Blog on California’s SB 9 , Teen Killers, and their victims by Cully Stimson
- Prisons are a bargain, by any measure
- The numbers don’t lie – its the hard core doing hard time
Even the Cartoons Get It
While humor is hardly appropriate in the cases we all live, horrific murders in our families, it is valuable to point out the great truths even in the newspaper comics.
This frame from a Dilbert comic communicates a great truth about the teen killers who murdered many of our loved ones.
The issue of how to punish teens who kill is not just a recent one – check out this classic movie: The Young Savages
Documentary film by Josh Rofe Lost for Life focuses on offenders but includes victim perspective.
Television Show Puts Juvenile-Adult Culpability at the Forefront
The acclaimed television series Boston Legal did an episode “Guardians and Gatekeepers” featuring the issue of teens being able to vote. Scientific testimony, based on real research, was featured in the show. Notes from the script:
Our brain size peaks at age 14. Our reasoning abilities peak at age 12. Pre-industrial society did not even have a word for “adolescent” and post-pubescent teens are considered adults. Psychologists say that by imposing all the restrictions we do on teens, we are infantilizing them, part of a grand scheme to extend childhood. Many others say that the only solution to teenage angst and irresponsibility is to go the opposite direction and treat them as grownups.
A Sampling of News Articles on JLWOP Juvenile Life Without Parole and Teen Killers (for much more see NEWS)
Ed Note: there are too many such articles to list at this website, and standard internet searches will reveal many articles on this topic. One concern has been the way that most media coverage about teen killers and their victims focuses significantly on the offenders, and not on the victims. And if the article is about policy matters, reporters commonly simply reprint what is released to them (a common problem throughout journalism), often propaganda, by offender advocates.
NOVJL Presents Award for Outstanding Journalism!
Scroll down to story below about the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s outstanding investigative reporting on a teen killer’s case, and how this exceptionally high caliber coverage sets a high bar for journalists doing these types of news stories. Ed note – the newspaper refused to receive the award – required of their journalistic integrity.
Coverage of SB 9 legislation features NOVJL family member Maggie Elvey and shows pictures of beaten murder victims and offenders
Two Sacramento teens talk casually on video about beating death of 90 year old woman- receive life sentences
Ventura, July 2008 Judge okays adult trial for teen murderer
Oakland Teen charged in murder drive by of Football player
Jacksonville, FL case where you can view video of the offender
The Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn’s column and blog on the need for certainty of Life Without Parole and its ramifications on the death penalty debate
Chicago Public Radio airs a story on JLWOP case – in it the offender Addolfo Davis gives false information about his story and WBEZ does not question it and allows it to go on the air. Since that time the offender has written to US at NOVJL and apologized for this false portrayal that hurts his victims families and seeks to minimize his culpability. We urge the radio station to air his retraction, which they have not done, to date.
Victims Family reacts to Supreme Court Ruling granting new sentencing hearing to murderer
An Austin Texas based radio program “Live and Let Live” on the Logos Radio Network features an hour long talk show featuring the President of NOVJL discussing the issue of teens who kill.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Wins NOVJL’s First Award for Outstanding Journalism
Since the MJS newspaper has already been recognized for its quality with several Pulitzer prizes, we should not have been surprised to read the outstanding work done by the staff of this fine paper. As part of their series “Dangerous and Free”, the front page and detailed coverage of the case of teen killer Markus Evans, “Juvenile Injustice” on May 29, 2011 sets a very high bar for outstanding journalism. Read the article and the many supplemental pieces of research and investigation.
Too often, as is evidenced on several other pages in this website, propaganda dominates the national media coverage of teens who kill. In this era of tight budgets and downsized newspapers, it is common that papers will do little investigation of their own. They will often print materials sent to them in press releases without verifying the facts. This is, for example, why you will so often read in the media that there are over 2500 cases of teen killers sentenced to life nationally, when the actual number is about 1300. The media has been repeating an estimate by an offender advocacy organization that has been proven inaccurate. And with well-funded offender advocacy organizations pushing to end life sentences for these killers retroactively, they have been publishing glossed over sympathetic portraits of the crimes that do not correctly report who has done what, where, why, why, and what the impact has been on the victims and the public. In “Juvenile Injustice” the MJS digs deep and reports the entire story. They provide taped interviews, a detailed history, extensive interviews with victims and witnesses, law enforcement, and experts. They connect the dots between failures in the juvenile system and a proximate danger to the public.
We will be presenting the staff of the MJS an Award for Outstanding Journalism. We believe that this caliber of work should be commended and called attention to, and we hope that other newspapers around the nation will look inside their states for similar cases to investigate. We know that public safety will be better served by reporting of this caliber. And we know that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s reporting will save lives. Other media outlets around the nation who attempt journalism of this caliber will save lives as well.
Diane Dimont’s Column on NOVJL
Teen Lifers’ Victims Deserve a Voice, Too
I goofed. I thought I had researched it enough, but the response to my last column showed me I did not.
Consider this my mea culpa.
The column was about the number of juveniles we sentence to life without parole on charges of murder or accessory to murder. I quoted a Human Rights Watch statistic that placed the number of “children” sentenced to life without parole at 2,574. I questioned how America’s international stance on human rights squared with our “routinely toss(ing) kids” into prison for the rest of their lives.
As comments to the column rolled in, I realized I had only written one side of the story. Also, I came to be suspicious of the methodology Human Rights Watch employed to reach that figure of 2,574. Seems they included some 19-year-olds in their count, making assumptions that they should be counted, too.
I’d researched a myriad of Internet sites that quoted the Human Rights Watch number as gospel. Now I realize the number had simply been accepted, without question, and repeated in news accounts, court briefs and even before many legislatures.
Then I got to know Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, founder of the National Organization for Victims of Juvenile Lifers. She wrote directing me to a scholarly report titled, “Adult Time for Adult Crimes” by Charles Stimson and Andrew Grossman and released by the Heritage Foundation.
After an exhaustive and detailed study, they concluded that the number of teens serving life without parole is closer to 1,300. It could be as high as 1,500 since six of the states did not respond to the study.
It also quotes the attorney general of Rhode Island as saying the Human Rights Watch folks got it wrong when they listed two life-without-parole juveniles in his state. There are not any, haven’t been any, there for more than 25 years.
Jennifer wanted me to know I’d failed to acknowledge the torment families of the dead experience — condemned to it for the rest of their lives.
And, she directed me to government statistics showing most of these killer children weren’t 8 or 9 years old; the biggest percentage are 16 and 17.
Many are seasoned gang members.
We cannot consider this breed of older teens as “children.” They need their own category — especially once they kill.
“Unfortunately there are some people who are so dangerous they should never be allowed to walk among us,” Jennifer told me on the phone. “I get so angry when their supporters say, ‘Gee, they’ll never get to drive a car or go to the prom!’ Give me a break,” she said with a weary sigh, “I’ll never see my sister again or get to know her child.”
In 1990 Jennifer’s pregnant sister, Nancy, and her brother-in-law, Richard Langert, of Winnetka, Ill., were tortured then murdered by a troubled kid named David Biro, just four weeks shy of his 17th birthday. He had bragged at school that he was the one who had shot the Langerts, which led police to him. Three years earlier, Biro had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital after reportedly trying to poison his family.
Biro is one of those “children” who got life in prison with no parole, deemed too dangerous to ever let loose on society.
Another member of Jennifer’s group is Daniel Horowitz, a prominent California attorney, whose cherished wife, Pam, was murdered at the construction site of their “dream home” by 17-year-old Scott Dyleski, who is also serving life in prison with no parole.
Horowitz wrote at the group’s Web site, www.teenkillers.org, “It does not follow that to treat a killer like a wounded bird we are somehow touching the heart of the killer and healing through love. We are simply opening the gates of hell and pushing their next victim in.”
Dora Larson also wrote of her suffering, “While so many people want these young killers freed because they were just ‘children,’ I wish they could understand the sorrow I feel each New Year without my child. The years have eased the deep pain, but with the passing of an old year brings the same dull ache.”
Kimberly Sorensen wrote of the murder of her 26-year-old son at the hands of a 17-year-old, “After Dan died, that vile boy said, ‘He sure made a mess’ and proceeded to use Dan’s severed head as a puppet. I know it’s difficult to think of putting a teenager in prison for life, but how many more innocent people have to serve lifetime sentences of pain and sorrow?”
The bottom line:
We aren’t “routinely tossing kids” into prison for the rest of their lives. The sentence of life without parole is applied rarely — yes, rarely — to those who were under 18 at the time of their crime.
Yes, it’s tragic that even one young person should lose their freedoms, but we must remember the damage they’ve done and the crimes they’ve committed: brutal kidnappings and beatings, dismemberments, rapes — all ending in the most gruesome murders imaginable.
Jennifer and other grieving family members are why I write this now.
They deserve consideration; some would argue they deserve more consideration than their loved one’s killer.
www.DianeDimond.net — e-mail to Diane@DianeDimond.net