Our System Has Holes: Jessica Armstrong’s Story
In 2007 my sister, Jennifer, was murdered in Minot. Not only was that horrible enough, but Jennifer left behind two young boys. My nephews no longer have their mother and the youngest is without a father as he was the man who killed my sister.
It is because of them that I support stronger victims’ rights in North Dakota.
No one ever plans to become a victim of crime, certainly not an 8- or a 4-year-old. But when someone finds themselves in that position, like us, they quickly realize their limited and sometimes non-existent rights. I can attest to the fact that there is a lot wrong with the court system and the way things are handled. One example is communication with the state’s attorney on something as simple as the plea agreement. It wasn’t until the agreement already made that we were even aware of it.
Crimes are prosecuted on behalf of the state, so we as family members – the ones truly affected by the murder – were outside the entire process. We did not have attorneys working for us, helping us understand the process, ensuring we knew about next steps. There was no handbook to navigate the system – we were on our own.
Measure 3 can change that. Victims will be notified of their rights from the start, and those rights will actually have weight behind them. We can know what resources are available, how and to whom we should ask questions. We will be guaranteed the right to be heard throughout the process.
Almost ten years later, I have forgiven the man who killed Jennifer, but we are still dealing with the effects of what happened. I have worked to help support other victims of domestic violence, and I have helped raise my two nephews. Being a victim of a crime is excruciating, and can be very difficult to understand unless you go through it firsthand. Don’t let anyone fool you, our system has holes, but it can be made better with stronger victims’ rights. I urge you to thoughtfully consider voting yes on Measure 3.