When Dana Parks walked into the courtroom to watch her assailant receive his sentence for his crime, she wasn’t expecting the judge to walk out of the courtroom. But that’s what Judge Kenneth Walker decided to do. Parks tried to participate in the sentencing by making a statement to the judge. However, the judge didn’t want to hear it.
Instead of listening patiently, Judge Walker interrupted Parks. Finally, he lost his cool and left the courtroom. Parks didn’t get to finish her statement. She is the victim of domestic assault.
Judge Walker allegedly stopped Parks three times during her statement. The Oregon Crime Victims Law Center says Walker’s actions were inappropriate, and they want a new hearing so that the victim can have her say. They say that the law requires the judge to listen to what the victim has to say.
During a sentencing hearing, both the state’s attorney and the defense have an opportunity to address the court. The state’s attorney doesn’t directly represent the victim, but the victim still has the right to make a speech to the court. Although the sentencing hearing was 27 minutes long, that included the entire hearing. The judge didn’t let the victim read the last paragraph of her speech.
The judge says that his actions were justified. The judge says that the victim wanted to talk about things that hadn’t been charged. He thought that it was unfair that the victim was talking about other incidents and events. At one point, he openly said, “I don’t want to hear this.”
In addition, the judge complained that the victim wanted to bring up social media posts about the crime. He eventually said, “I’ve heard enough.” The prosecutor asked for the victim to be allowed to finish her statement, but the judge said no.
Before the hearing, the parties had already agreed to a sentence of three years in prison. The judge honored that agreement and handed down a sentence of three years. The judge has denied interview requests.
Lawmakers throughout the United States have passed victim rights laws in order to ensure that victims have their say in the legal process. Victims usually aren’t legally trained. They don’t know what they can say, and what they can’t say.
The Parks case raises the question of what victims should be allowed to talk about during a sentencing. A victim often wants the judge to understand the context behind the event itself. However, because judges might view victims as unimportant to a sentencing hearing, victim rights laws exist to ensure victims can participate in the legal process.