Friday, September 21, 2007

F.A.C.T. demands victims' rights

'People don't trust the justice system,' says murdered teen's dad
Glenda Luymes, The ProvincePublished: Sunday, August 12, 2007
When Linda Jonas opened her front door and saw a police officer, she knew something was wrong.

But when he said her son Cory was dead, she didn't believe him.
"I said, 'No, he can't be dead. I just talked to him.' The officer said, 'I'm sorry, but he is.' And that was it -- nothing was the same," Jonas recalled yesterday.

In an interview at a community crime forum in New Westminster, Jonas talked about the tremendous impact a single act of violence has had on her life.
"It doesn't get any easier. It has been two years since I last saw him, and that just gets harder," she said.
In addition to her son's death, Jonas was also faced with the grim news that his best friend, Colen Chapman, had killed him.
Both roofers, the men were living together in Mission, along with Chapman's common-law wife. On Nov. 2, 2005, Chapman came home to find Cory and his wife in a compromising situation. Chapman kicked his friend in the head 10 times, before eventually calling an ambulance. Cory died, and Chapman was charged with second-degree murder.
As the preliminary inquiry began, Jonas was still struggling to understand what had happened, while at the same time struggling to negotiate the criminal justice system.
"I was looking for anyone who might be able to relate to what I was going through," she said.
Then she saw a newspaper article about the parents of Jesse Penner, a 20-year-old Port Coquitlam man who was killed at a house party. She knew she had to talk to them.
The Penners eventually put Jonas in touch with FACT, a victim support and advocacy group started by Nina Rivet, whose sister was killed by a street racer, and David Toner and his wife, Sandra Martins-Toner, whose 16-year-old son Matthew was murdered at a Surrey SkyTrain station.
"She was the angel I had been praying for," said Jonas of Rivet. "Without FACT, things would have been so much harder. I suddenly realized that there are so many people out there that have been touched by violence, and it's not going to stop until we do something."
Chapman's second-degree murder trial abruptly ended with a manslaughter plea. In March, he was given five years in jail, but with double credit for time already served, that meant only two years. Then, Jonas received a letter informing her Chapman will be applying for day parole in October.
"I couldn't believe it. I feel incredibly let down by the courts," she said.
It was a common theme at the forum.
"People don't trust the justice system," said Toner. "We've taken our angst and our anger and tried to turn it into something positive -- a voice for change."
The forum was also attended by three NDP MLAs, including public safety critic Mike Farnworth, who said victims deserve more rights.
"Victims have a right to know that when they go to court, they will be heard," he said.
© The Vancouver Province 2007

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