The criminal court system allows a crime victim, or other representative person, to make a personal statement in court before the perpetrator of the crime is officially sentenced. The criminal justice system works very, very slowly. It is entirely focused on the rights of the defendant. An opportunity to make a victim impact statement at last allows the victim – or their representative – to have a voice in the courtroom.
For some people I’m sure it’s a cathartic experience. For me, it was certainly not that. The guilty party spent the time up to court was convened chatting and laughing with a bunch of his friends in the back of the courtroom. He was a man in his mid-20s, standing just feet away from the widow, family and friends of the man he killed, behaving like it was all no big deal.
After the presiding judge came in and the court was called to order, my turn to speak came quickly. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get through reading the brief statement I had written, so a good friend stayed close to me in case I needed her to take over. But I got through it.
I don’t know if the guilty party listened to what I said, or if it really made an impression on anybody else. I’ve been really remember that when he was led from the room in handcuffs to begin serving his sentence, a young woman in the back of the room shouted out very loudly, “We love you Brian!” and some of his supporters were calling out to him as if he was going on vacation, not to incarceration because he killed somebody.
My 12-year-old had argued with me that she wanted to be there. I am so glad I didn’t allow it.
Following is the statement I wrote and read. It’s not eloquent or very well written because writing it was extremely difficult for me. With the anniversary of my husband’s death this weekend, it seemed timely to share.
Victim impact statement
Your Honor, I speak today on behalf of myself, my husband Chris, and our three children, Amanda, Sabrina and Nicholas.
Mr. Daly pled guilty in order to avoid the longer sentence he would’ve gotten after a trial found him guilty. I agreed to the plea bargain, and I regret it. I agreed to it because I believe it is what my husband would have wanted me to do. Chris’ main focus in life was our children and me. The stress of this past year since Brian Daly killed Chris caused my multiple sclerosis to act up. I just spent 3 months in the hospital and physical rehab as a result of that unbearable emotional pain and stress I can’t imagine how bad it would’ve been had I had to sit through a trial and watch Mr. Daly and his lawyers try to minimize his crimes and avoid acknowledging his responsibility for his overt actions in killing my husband.
I was unable to be at that last court date because I was in the Hospital. People who were able to be here however, were dismayed as they told me what took place. By all accounts, even at his allocution and guilty plea Mr. Daly was very reluctant to take any responsibility for what he has done. When he is in a jail cell feeling sorry for himself, I want him to remember every minute that he put a wonderful, innocent man in an early grave forever. Chris was a loving, caring, hard working, devout and loyal person, and Mr. Daly gave him a death sentence.
Brian Daly has no remorse, or he would have pled guilty right away, or sought a plea deal right away. Instead I had to sit in court and hear his Not Guilty plea, then wait through wrangling and nonsense about bail, and bail terms, and motions and now nearly 17 months of acid being added to the already excruciating agony of my husband’s death.
My husband was all about honesty, and taking responsibility for one’s actions. Those were qualities he was determined to instill in our children. Chris was also all about joy, and fun, and spontaneity. He had a wonderful laugh, was an amateur magician, and played piano beautifully. Chris was a truly amazing Dad who adored our children and would do absolutely anything for them. He wore crazy costumes to go trick or treat with them. He was the Cookie Mom for Amanda’s Girl Scout troop. Sabrina wanted a diving show at her birthday pool party, so Chris willingly put on a green frog suit. Nicky wanted to play baseball and golf, so nearly every day Chris found time to play with him. In his professional career, Chris had demanding, difficult jobs with high levels of responsibility. Yet somehow Chris was always there for the kids’ activities. He always put our family first. In our church and community, Chris would always volunteer whenever help was needed, or whenever he saw an unspoken need. He was as much Brian Daly’s opposite as a person could be.
Since Chris was killed, he has missed his son’s First Holy Communion, a daughter’s Confirmation and Graduation, 4 birthday parties, all the holidays, 2 Father’s Days, and the list goes on and on. He will not be here for their weddings, or to meet any grandchildren. And why? Because Mr. Daly loves to drink and take drugs and did not care at all what the consequences could be when he got in his car.
My daughters were awake and with me when the police detectives came into our home and told us Chris’ vehicle had been hit broadside at a “high rate of speed” just blocks from our home. I asked to be taken to the hospital to be with him and was told “he did not survive his injuries.” I will never forget that nightmarish, surreal moment. As our children started to understand what we were being told, the screams and sobs began. The horror of that night is beyond anything that words can even begin to describe. I remember the gentleman from EMS who also was present …. he gave me oxygen and I struggled to not faint. I knew I could not let that happen in front of my already traumatized children.
Our little boy had just turned 8 a couple of weeks before this drunk driver killed his father. For months and months Nicholas begged to be taken to the Daly house to ask “why did you kill my daddy?!?” Many times It is still a fight to get the Nicholas to wear his seat belt, because he knows that his Daddy had one on and he died anyway. Despite seatbelt and airbag, and driving a safe minivan, Chris never even had a chance. Mr. Daly was speeding so fast and so wildly that he slammed into Chris like a missile. The images of the scene are just completely horrific. Those images are readily available on the Internet, so that our kids someday will undoubtedly see the both the twisted wreckage of Daddy’s minivan, and the security camera footage that caught the violent impact.
I wish Brian Daly had to spend the rest of his life listening to the haunting tears and questions and worries of my children. My own tears still come daily. Brian Daly took Chris’ life and destroyed my life too. I have lost my husband, my best friend, my partner, the most important person in my life since I was 16. We understood one another so well. We were a team. When I became disabled, Chris just adapted our world and never missed a beat. We never could have imagined that a drunk driver would destroy our family and our life.
Our children grapple with fear when we are in the car. If anyone is late they panic and worry there has been a disaster. Chris’ death was not by natural causes. It was not really an “accident”. This was not unforeseeable in Mr. Daly’s life, because he drinks to get drunk! And alcohol wasn’t enough for him. He was taking hard drugs too! Chris died a terrible death because of Brian Daly’s dangerous conduct and complete disregard for anything and anyone besides himself.
As I mentioned, Chris and I were a couple since I was 16 and he was 17. We saw each other through everything. But the night he was so brutally killed, there wasn’t even time for me to get to the hospital to hold his hand one last time.
It has been 17 months since Chris was killed. But it feels like yesterday. I am left alone to raise our children as best I can and to cope with everything on my own, despite all the huge obstacles we face. Life for me without Chris is hollow. I am doing what needs to be done but my heart is shattered. Our children have great friends, spiritual support, and psychological support. They are coping as best as they can with this unbearable tragedy. But Chris was the energy and true heartbeat of our family unit, as well as our sole financial support because I am permanently disabled.
Brian Daly killed my husband and viciously ended our hopes and plans and dreams for our family. Daly cruelly deprived our 3 children of their loving, devoted father. We are all his victims. There are no words that can really convey the nightmare into which Daley has thrown us. Many days I still find myself irrationally listening for Chris’ footsteps though I know I will never hear them again. The agonizing pain from Mr. Daly’s crime will never go away. He will serve a short jail sentence. We are already serving a life sentence. Mr. Daly will get out prison with plenty of years still to live. Chris is never coming back. Daly will pay a small price for his crime. But my husband and our family are paying a much higher price, and we will forever.
Thank you for this chance to address the court.
1 thought on “Victim Impact Letter”
Wow, Denise, this was such a transparent sharing of your immeasurable pain and loss! How callus of Daly not taking responsibility even later and at the courthouse! Hard to believe that one can be so void of human decency and remorse. Also, so awful to realize that the family of the victim are the ones who further are punished while the criminal gets a second chance when he’s out in a few years. I understand your emotions and why you cannot bring yourself to forgive this awful man. Thank you for sharing your painful story and your losses.