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GILLIS STATEMENT FROM THE AUTHOR Hon. John Gillis* Louarna Gills, 22, John Gillis . . .

daughter, was murdered on January 17, 1979 as part of a gang initiation in Los Angeles. The quickest way to be initiated into the Mexican Mafia was to murder the daughter of a Los Angeles Police Department officer; John had been a homicide detective with the department and was at the time serving as a sergeant on the Los Angeles Police Commission. The killer targeted Louarna because he knew that she was the daughter of a police officer. He picked her up a few blocks from her home, drove her to an alley, shot her in the head as she sat in the car, pushed her into the alley, and then fired additional shots into her back. The family was not notified of critical proceedings in the killers trial, including the arraignment. John, [former] Director of the Office for Victims of Crime of the U.S. Department of Justice, was not allowed to enter the courtroom during the trial.1 For more than five decades I have been involved with the criminal justice system and during that time not a lot has changed for victims of crime. As a child, long before my involvement with the system, I remember watching the cowboy movies and the gangster movies that had one predominant scene. The bad guys would commit a crime, mount their favorite mode of travel, and head for the county or state line because they knew the pursuing authorities had no jurisdiction once they crossed that magic line. Victims of today face a similar dilemma. The treatment depends on where they are victimized. At the time of the writing of the U.S. Constitution, victim rights were not perceived to be an issue. The victim, or next of kin, was an active and primary participant in the entire process. There was never a question about the victim being present at the hearings. There was no question regarding the victims participation in the proceedings and no restriction about the victim talking about the impact of the crime at the hearing. When the government began taking over the role of prosecuting crimes on behalf of the victim, things dramatically changed for the

* 1

The author is the former Director of the Office for Victims of Crime, for the United States Department of Justice. Jon Kyl et al., On the Wings of Their Angels: The Scott Campbell, Stephanie Roper, Wendy Preston, Louarna Gillis, and Nila Lynn Crime Victims Rights Act, 9 LEWIS & CLARK L. REV. 581, 582 (2005).

PHOENIX LAW REVIEW victim. The victim became the necessary piece of evidence to prove the case, and nothing more. The victim had no other role than to be the corpus delecti of the crime. If other evidence could be produced without the victim, the victim was relegated to the halls of the courthouse. I have been there. I was that next of kin, required to wait in the hallway while the trial for the murderer of my daughter took place. In 1979, I was a sergeant with the Los Angeles Police Department. My daughter, Louarna Gillis, was murdered by a young gang member who wanted move up in the ranks of the Mexican Mafia. The quickest way for him to do that was to kill a cop or a family member of a cop. Louarna was a twenty-two-year-old nursing student, and she was employed part-time as a nurses aide. One week after Louarnas twenty-second birthday, the defendant told her he had been designated by her friends to pick her up and take her to a surprise birthday party. He picked her up as planned, drove her to an alley where he shot her in the head, and emptied the gun in her back as she lay on the ground. The defendant was arrested a few months later and shortly thereafter we were in trial. My wife and I were both excluded from the courtroom for the entire process. We sat in the hallway while the defendants friends and family paraded in and out of the courtroom. At times they would look at us and laugh, other times they would give us dirty looks as they flashed signs and wore their colors. Although the trial took place in 1979, this scenario still plays out day after day across America. Victims and next of kin are still stuck in the hallways of justice while the government panders to the every need of the defendant. Defenders of the indefensible still believe that victims in the courtroom might cause a juror or judge to disregard the facts of the case and convict the defendant. They do not mention it may be a little more difficult for the defense to puff or lie while the aggrieved parties are listening.

GILLIS In the case of my daughters murderer, the jury came back with a verdict of eleven for first degree murder and one not guilty. I dont know what was said during the trial that caused one juror to come back with a not guilty verdict, but I believe my family could have corrected any misinformation put forth by the defense. Our input may have been enough to save the case. As we were rapidly preparing for a retrial the defendant offered to plead to second degree murder. We accepted the plea, but again, we were not in court for sentencing, and impact statements were things of the future. It is unconscionable that victims, even as we speak, do not have the constitutional rights to be in court and to be heard. Our Constitution should give as much protection to the injured party as it does to the accused. While no innocent party should ever be wrongly convicted there is little or no guesswork when it comes to identifying the victim of a violent crime. Recognizing the victims rights in no way violates the defendants right to a fair and impartial hearing. After Louarnas murderer was sentenced to state prison he contacted federal authorities and volunteered to testify in a RICO hearing. When he finished his testimony the feds moved him to a hideout federal prisonthey say for his protectionwhere he has been since 1992. He is eligible for parole and thereby gets parole suitability hearings to determine if he should be released. Since my family and I are not permitted to know where he is, or what he is doing, the Department of Corrections makes all the arrangements and then tells us where to be if we want to be present at the hearing. For one hearing in the late 90s, my wife and I were at a prison in California and we were connected to another prison somewhere in the United States; the hearing was conducted by conference call. The next hearing, held five years later, was held at a prison in Chicago, Illinois. My wife and I had to pay all travel and lodging expenses to attend the hearing in Chicago. This year the hearing was held in California. The expenses for us just keep piling

PHOENIX LAW REVIEW up, but I know about the many families across the United States that have been financially devastated. These families are not able to attend the hearings and in many instances are never notified that a hearing is taking place. In April of 2001, I was nominated by President George W. Bush to serve as Director, Office for Victims of Crime, United States Department of Justice. I was confirmed by the U.S. Senate during the week of September 11, 2001 and served until January 20, 2009. During my tenure with the Office for Victims of Crime I heard and saw, first-hand, the pain and suffering of crime victims all across America. I talked with scores of families who had literally lost their jobs, their homes, their self-pride, and respect because they had the misfortune of becoming a crime victim. And those who were hurt the most were those who were inter-state victims. They were victimized in one state and resided in another. Although many states have amended their constitutions to include rights for victims, the constitutions are not binding outside the state borders. Even within the state, the states constitution too often has the clout of a marshmallow! It is time we amended the U.S. Constitution to include rights for victims of crime. Americans who become crime victims in any state should have the same rights as any crime victim anywhere in the United States. The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution states that it is established to promote the general Welfare;2 therefore it is imperative that victims rights be included as an amendment.

U.S. CONST. pmbl.