Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney said the criminal justice system has become “more antagonistic” to victims and their families Sunday as he joined about two dozen people in Hauppauge to remember and celebrate the lives of more than 600 people murdered in recent decades.
Tierney spoke at a gathering at the Victims Memorial Monument at Suffolk County’s H. Lee Dennison Building that was sponsored by the Long Island/New York Metro Chapter of Parents and Other Survivors of Murdered Victims. Members later read the names of murder victims whose families and friends have been involved in the organization created in 1981. The event marked the end of National Crime Victims Rights Week.
“I’ve been a prosecutor for 27 years, and I always knew that the criminal justice system, it's not a system that is friendly or easy for crime victims and their families to navigate,” Tierney said. “It’s difficult. It’s always been difficult. The constitutional protections are stacked to protect the accused, which is fine, that’s our system. But I think even now, it has gotten worse, it has become more antagonistic to crime victims and their families.”
Tierney said his office is taking steps to make the criminal justice system more accessible to victims and their families. “We are putting the focus on where it belongs, that is on public safety, that is on the victim and their family.”
POMV director Barbara Connelly of Shirley and other volunteers read the names of 668 murder victims, including many killed on Long Island.
“Sometimes it is so hard in here,” Connelly said, gesturing to her heart, “because you feel every single name and you know all the suffering the family has done. Every victim deserves to have their name said out loud and clear.”
Connelly, whose son Jimmy Connelly was 15 years old when he was murdered in Nassau County in 1979, agreed with Tierney's sentiments about the criminal justice system. She called on legislators to support a bill that would require officials to notify families when murderers complete parole.
Connelly said her son was a computer geek back in the 1970s, long before the Internet became a crucial part of life. She predicted he would have become a leader in the tech world. “All these victims, what would they have accomplished?” Connelly asked.
POMV board member Nancy Wingender ended the event by reminding the loved ones of murdered people that they, too, are victims.
“The tragic ending of all these loved ones should never be forgotten.” Wingender said. “As members, we never truly heal. But we carry on to honor their stories and lives.”