When Victim Notification Fails

Notifications from the legal system for victims and survivors often fall through the cracks even though Georgia law requires it.

Having faith that the courts and the correctional system will tell you when a perpetrator is going to be released from detention or that a new hearing is scheduled gives a degree of comfort and peace to families that have reason to be concerned.

Dotty Chaney wrote an oped in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer recently that tells her story.

In December 1995, a robber working with two other men shot and killed her father, while he worked in an armored truck delivering to a bank.

“John Hamilton was a hero,” Chaney said about her father. He proudly served in the U.S. Army for 22 years. After serving in Vietnam, he transitioned back home to the role of a loving father and husband. He wasn’t supposed to be at work the day he was ambushed, shot and killed. As the driver, he normally would not have been in the back of the truck, so when we saw the news reports of a death, we assumed it was someone else. But we soon learned this story couldn’t strike closer to home.

“Two decades later, the story continues. For my mother, a day doesn’t go by that she doesn’t think of what was taken from her way too soon.”

The triggerman is on death row. One accomplice remains in prison. But the third man was released by the Georgia Court of Appeals in December 2015.

“My family wasn’t told about these legal proceedings,” Chaney said. “Our voices weren’t heard in this court. We received no notification when this man who played a role in my father’s murder was given his freedom by the state of Georgia. Under state law, victims are entitled to these rights. But in Georgia, unlike defendants and convicts, victims don’t enjoy the protections that come with constitutional rights. As such, our family had no recourse to get our rights enforced. Georgia is one of only 15 states that do not have victims’ rights in the state constitution. Many of these states are currently in the process of fixing this. Voters in Georgia should get their say too.”