National Crime Victim Rights' Week Awardees 1986

  1. Denver Mock, Sheriff of Williams County, Ohio, has directed one of the most successful efforts in the country to educate sheriffs and their deputies on the needs of crime victims. Spurred by the National Sheriffs' Association Victim Assistance Project with the Justice Department, Mock was able to get additional support from his own state association to launch a major project in January 1985.

    One year later, the Ohio State Sheriffs' Association has educated its members and citizen groups in almost 65 percent of the state's counties. In the past two years, the legislature has enacted 16 laws on behalf of crime victims, and five more are expected to pass.

    These new laws and training projects have made a difference. Rape victims, for example, used to be brought to the hospital, questioned, their clothes taken as evidence, and given the bill to pay for the medical examination. Afterwards they were left on their own to find a way home. Now the county pays for rape forensic exams, and officers make certain the victim has transportation home.

    Mock says, "When you talk to people and make them aware of how the law has changed, they just glow. They know they're going to have their day in court. We're showing people we really care about them. And I think that means more people will start reporting crime and be willing to testify."

    Ronald Dean of West Union, OH, can personally testify to Mock's success. He was shot five times by an armed assailant and as a result suffered serious medical, financial, and emotional troubles. At all hours of the night, Mock personally counseled Dean and his wife, and saw to it they saw a professional counselor. Ultimately, the assailant was convicted, and Dean's health, career, and marriage endured this crisis.

  2. Robert Gallagher, District Attorney of Littleton, CO, a Denver suburb, created his own task force on crime victims, using the President's Task Force as a basis for action. "My copy of the President's Task Force report is dog-eared from use," he told us. His commission's recommendations helped provide impetus to pass major laws requiring professionals to treat victims with more respect and compassion. For example, prosecutors now carefully consider the effect on the victim of postponing a case. The public defender now permits therapists to take the witness stand with a child victim. And victims have the opportunity to present a statement describing the crime's consequences before the prosecutor may accept a plea bargain or the judge may impose a sentence.

    Stacey Johnson, a 19-year-old girl, can recognize Gallagher. When she was 16 years old, she stopped to help a man having car trouble in a local shopping center parking lot. Turning on her, he stabbed her repeatedly. He was convicted but appealed many times. Stacey endured several appeals and received vital support from Gallagher's victim assistance project.

  3. Morton Tice, a South Dakota judge, underwent a metamorphic change in his behavior toward victims after he attended a national conference on crime victims sponsored by the Justice Department. He says, "As judges, we almost never, think of the victim. This was the first time in my life I'd ever listened to a victim. Always before I had regarded them as someone who had a story to tell in order for me to make a decision. There I saw them as people - not just pieces of evidence."

    When he returned home from the conference, Tice saw that a committee was formed to promote reforms for victims in South Dakota. It succeeded in passing a massive legislative package. For example, now addresses of victims or witnesses cannot be released to the public. Property must be promptly returned to victims. Victims may speak at an offender's parole hearing.

    Having taken such a visible role in bringing victim reforms to South Dakota, Tice says he has been criticized by his brethren for compromising his judicial independence and denying the rights of defendants. But he firmly believes that victim reforms take nothing from the accused; they simply make it easier for victims to cooperate.

    Kevin Twidt's brother was killed last summer when a woman convicted of four previous drunk driving offenses barrelled into his car. The Twidt family's grief was significantly ameliorated by the new laws and programs in South Dakota. The state's first victim service unit called to offer counseling. The advocate kept them informed about their case, and helped them prepare a victim impact statement, permitted for the first time. In the future, the family will receive restitution, and be notified of the assailant's release on parole, all as a result of reforms spurred by Judge Tice.

  4. Suzanne McDaniel Wilms, Director of the Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse, said that when the President's Task Force came to Houston in 1982, it forced state leaders to assess what consideration they have given to victims - and what they had not. At that time, there was only one victim advocate in a district attorney's office for the entire state. The victim compensation program, although enacted, was operating in the red. County officials were not collecting the revenues for the fund, and victims didn't know enough to apply to receive them.

    Since the President's Task Force and thanks to Suzanne's diligent efforts, the transformation in Texas has been dramatic. Now there are 18 victim advocates in prosecutors' offices. More than 75 grassroots self-help groups exist, where very few did before. Texas has a statewide hotline for crime victims, which has responded to more than 11,000 calls during the past two years. The state legislature passed a comprehensive package of laws on behalf of victims.

    In general, Suzanne says, "The President's Task Force gave validity and recognition to a movement that was long overdue. Most important, it studied the problem and gave a recipe for solutions." At a time when she was personally frustrated by the lack of interest in crime victims, Suzanne says the federal leadership inspired her to continue striving to serve them.

    Hope Arnum of Houston is an elderly woman who was beaten by two intruders burglarizing her home. As a result of a smashed hip, Hope has incurred high medical bills, endured therapy for six months, and lost her job because of the time that was necessary to heal her injury and help hold the assailants accountable. Due to permanent discomfort, Hope will never be able to work again. As well as helping her deal with the trauma of the crime, Suzanne saw to it that Hope received some financial aid from the state victim compensation fund, which is operating in the black for the first time.