Statutory Protections Not Sufficient - Bill Greeley's Story
Unfortunately, I know firsthand why statutory protections for victims are not sufficient and why victims of crime in New Hampshire need Constitutional rights. I have seen the inadequacies of the current Victims’ Bill of Rights and it’s time for us to make a change.
In the early 1970’s, my sister, Lee Ann Greeley, was murdered in New Hampshire. In 1975, the man that murdered her was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Two years later, in 1977, her murderer jumped a wall at the state prison and escaped. My family was never notified that the man that took my sister’s life had escaped and that his whereabouts was unknown. He was out in the community for 2 weeks and no one thought to call us. We found out that he had escaped by reading it in a local paper that said he had been caught and returned to jail.
After enduring the loss of my sister and working with my family to try to put the pieces of our lives back together, I can tell you that not much scares me anymore. But, the thought of that monster showing up at my doorstep, or harming another member of my family, terrifies me. At the very least, we deserve to know when he is no longer behind bars and our safety could be at risk.
Marsy’s Law will provide victims with a Constitutional right to be notified of the escape of a convicted criminal. It baffles me that this right is not already enshrined in the state Constitution – but here we are. This step is critical towards changing the culture of our criminal justice system and making sure victims of crime are not an afterthought. Statutory protections just simply don’t have the weight behind them that constitutional rights do. This is something not only I have known for decades, but something 35 other states in our country have recognized as well.
The pattern of re-victimization that our family endured during our participation in the criminal justice system did not stop there.
In 1988, despite his escape, my sister’s murderer was granted parole. Once again, my family was never notified. We did not know that he was even up for parole, we were never given notice of the parole hearing, and we did not have the opportunity to speak at the hearing to share how devastated our family was as a result of his heinous act.
With the current statutory rights provided to victims, the best we could get from the parole board was “I’m sorry”, and we didn’t even get that. There was no recourse or means for ensuring that our voices would be heard before the man that murdered my sister was released.
A few years after being let out on parole, he was charged with sexually assaulting an 11-year-old boy and his parole was revoked.
Had we had the Constitutional rights to be notified of and heard at the hearing, we would have been able to tell the parole board how dangerous this man truly was – they would have had to recognize our Constitutional right and consider our perspective. Marsy’s Law would not require the parole board to reverse their decision, but they would have the opportunity to grant a do-over if they determined it was valid and necessary based on what we shared.
Had we had the recourse provided by Constitutional rights, there is a chance that his parole could have been revoked. There is a chance that knowing what this man was capable of would have allowed the parole board to change their minds. There is a chance that he would have been sent back to prison before he had the opportunity to rape that young boy. There is a chance that this heinous crime could’ve been prevented.
It still haunts me to this day that I was not given the opportunity to address the parole board and that the lack of teeth behind our limited statutory rights could be the reason that that little boy was assaulted. Having enforceable Constitutional rights would’ve at least made sure that the parole board had all of the relevant information before releasing a dangerous predator back into society.
There is no way for this recourse to have been accomplished through statute – that is precisely why we are here.
It’s bad enough that the parole board was able to make a determination about the dangerousness of a murderer without hearing from the very people that his actions impacted. But, to know that there is no enforcement mechanism behind our statutory rights, to know that our rights were essentially meaningless, to know that the lack of consideration for victims in our current system could have led to the victimization of a child – that is unacceptable.
Victims in New Hampshire need Constitutional protections because statutory rights are not sufficient. I ask you all to please support CACR 22 and make sure victims of crime have the rights that they so desperately need and deserve – we’ve already been through too much.