'I feel closure': Domestic violence victim gets chance to read impact statement in court
A domestic violence victim who was cut off by a judge multiple times during her victim statement finally got to read it Wednesday -- uninterrupted.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that Dana Parks' constitutional right to be heard was violated when a Multnomah County judge interrupted and ended her statement in January.
She was trying to deliver a victim-impact statement during her ex-boyfriend Zachary Ball's sentencing. Judge Kenneth Walker cut off Parks three times, then eventually walked out of the room before she could finish reading the statement.
Ball was being sentenced after he pleaded guilty to felony assault IV, attempted assault and coercion.
Her statement Wednesday wasn't quite as long as she would have liked, partly because she says she was scared to read anything longer, but felt her shortened statement was stronger. It took only about 10 minutes, which was 15 minutes shorter than her original statement in January.
"Please understand me that I am serious when I say I fear for my life when he is released from prison," Parks read during her statement. "I know from personal experience that no one can truly ensure my safety when he is released."
Parks was represented by Oregon Crime Victims Law Center staff attorney Yazmin Wadia.
"It’s only the second time in our Constitution that victims have the right to be heard. They have the right to be heard at release hearings and at sentencing, so there is a lot of time where victims don’t have a voice," Wadia told KATU. "This is a very important time for victims."
The hearing was presided over by Judge Angel Lopez, who had offered to take the hearing over from Judge Walker.
Lopez responded briefly when Parks finished her statement.
"What you just told me speaks volumes," Lopez said to the court. "I wish you well. I hope you cure, and I want you to understand that the hope for you lies in fact that you won’t have to live with this man anymore. But, the hell for him, is that he will have to live with himself."
Parks said she is feeling relieved, and is happy to finally close this chapter of her life.
"My right to be heard is important. People shouldn't use their power over somebody to silence them, especially when they're there to protect them," Parks told KATU. "[I] felt like I finally gained some control back of the situation and I feel closure."
The Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability is reviewing formal complaints filed by several people over Judge Walker's behavior earlier this year. If they find wrongdoing, the commission will send recommendations to the Oregon Supreme Court, which could enforce any disciplinary actions against Walker.
The Oregon Supreme Court has not yet received word from the commission. The process could take months.