When protecting criminals comes at the expense of victims

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By Nikki Goeser & John R. Lott Jr. for RealClearPolitics

It took four years and nine months before Nicolas Cruz was finally convicted of the murder of 17 people in the horrific Parkland massacre.

So much of the justice system is focused on fairness to the criminal; but the damage to the victims and their families while they await trial is enormous. Those who have to testify or make victim statements must constantly think about what they will say during the trial. There is also uncertainty about the verdict and whether the killer will be punished.

In the Parkland case, the victims were denied the closure of Cruz who received the death penalty.

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We have seen first hand the consequences of delays in the process. Nikki Goeser, the co-author here, helplessly witnessed her husband, Ben, being murdered before her eyes by her stalker on April 2, 2009. The killer had long been obsessed with her. Nor was there any doubt as to who the killer was. Hank Wise shot and killed her husband in front of 50 witnesses and was filmed on a restaurant security video.

Incredibly, Nikki is still dealing with the legal ramifications of that case. The killer has continued to stalk her and a new trial, originally scheduled for the third attempt on November 8, is now set to take place in January 2023.

There is no doubt that he carefully planned the murder in advance.

The night before the murder, he had posted on social media:

Predator versus prey. I know who you are, run away. Where are you going to work where I cant do you think? At home, at dinner, in your sleep, every damn waking moment. This is going to be very painful. youpissed me off now. You’re about to see my bad side. What kind of life do you have now?! You are forever unforgiven.

In the stalker’s truck in the restaurant parking lot the night of Ben’s murder, police found two more rifles (a shotgun and rifle), ammunition, a baseball bat, binoculars, gloves, rope, and a knife.

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This was a clear case. But the trial was postponed several times and did not happen until three years later, on April 9, 2012. Nikki knew she would have to testify. As each trial date approached, she had to prepare and relive the horrific events.

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Victims worry about whether they will do well. What is the defender going to do with them? Nikki couldn’t put it behind her. We know the nightmares she had to go through. Nightmares she lives with to this day.

Unfortunately, the killer didn’t get the punishment he deserved. He was not given the death penalty or even a life sentence. The death penalty is available in Tennessee, but the Davidson County District Attorney has opposed its use. Despite all the evidence of premeditation and planning, the Liberal judge reduced the sentence to first-degree manslaughter.

The killer is still obsessed with Nikki and she fears his release. He had her lawyer’s address and had sent her letters before his trial in 2012. Nikki begged the prosecutors and others to stop him, but they weren’t helping, so she told her lawyer not to talk to her about the letters anymore. narrate.

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Then, in October 2019, she was researching her book “Stalked and defenseless”, she reached out to her lawyer and found that the killer had sent many more love letters from prison, including Valentine’s Day and Christmas cards.

She also found out that the Tennessee Department of Corrections (TDOC) had granted the killer three and a half years of parole/good conduct, even as he continued to stalk her from prison.

When Nikki approached TDOC about withdrawing those credits, we were both told they wouldn’t do anything because they didn’t want to upset the ‘prisoner’s rights groups’.

We tried a two-pronged strategy. We paid lawyers over $12,000 to convince prosecutors and police to charge stalking. We also spent more than $14,000 publishing her book in the hopes that the publicity would spark the prosecutors’ interest and get TDOC to do the right thing.

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Hiring lawyers got us nowhere. Being on national news shows didn’t work either. Few people have the contacts or resources we have, but despite all our efforts, it seemed hopeless. Finally, a federal prosecutor got involved when a news program on local television in Nashville (WSMV-TV) carried Nikki’s story in July 2020, shortly before the statute of limitations was due to expire.

But it’s been more than three years since she heard about this stalking. A trial scheduled for November 8 has been postponed for the fourth time to a date yet to be determined in January. Again, these delays take an emotional toll. Nikki must mentally re-prepare to testify, reliving her fears and dealing with nightmares in stressful anticipation of the trial, but the trial is delayed again.

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Part of the delay is due to the killer being insane. His lawyer claims he is too obsessed with her to be responsible for his actions. His defense during the murder trial was that he had delusional disorder and erotomania, the delusion that their target of obsession loves them and that there is a relationship.

The killer has also made threatening comments about what will happen if Nikki finds another person in her life. Understandably, Nikki is extremely afraid of his future release, knowing what he has already proven to be.

It’s been thirteen years since Nikki’s stalker killed her husband. Yet she still lives with that horror. Delaying the trial can sometimes help ensure a fair trial for the criminal, but they always put victims and their families through hell time and time again. With so many people becoming victims of crime today, we have to realize that the harm done to victims often lasts many years after the crime.

Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.

Nikki Goeser is director of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

John R. Lott Jr. contributes to: RealClearInvestigations, focused on voting and gun rights. His articles have appeared in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, USA todayand TBEN. Lott is an economist who has held research and/or teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Yale University, Stanford, UCLA, Wharton and Rice.

The opinions of employees and/or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TBEN.

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