On her blog this weekend, Lorenn Walker posted a piece about what she sees as the significance of the restorative justice conference used at the pre-sentencing phase of the Ann Grosmaire murder case. Here's an excerpt from her piece, with links preserved:
[Paul] Tullis’s article [in the New York Times Magazine] made an important contribution by describing how restorative justice can be used at the plea agreement stage of a murder case, by “vividly tell[ing] the story from the perspectives of the different parties that took part in the process” as pointed out by Hadar Aviram, law professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.
Restorative justice is used for serious crimes including murder (it is especially effective for this level of serious felonies), but usually it’s only used after a person has pleaded guilt. Last year the Oprah Winfrey Network did documentaries of 4 cases concerning homicides that were held in prisons (I facilitated one).
Face-to-face restorative justice meetings are almost always used after conviction or for diverting cases before they go to the criminal justice system or trial for resolution. I’ve never heard of a murder case being diverted, neither had Tullis who wrote, “no one I spoke to had ever heard of restorative justice applied for anything as serious as murder” for diversion. Yet, it would be possible to divert a murder case to a restorative process, and maybe any that have been diverted have not been discussed because of the potential for political backlash (e.g. alleged failure to be “tough on crime.”)
Restorative processes are especially powerful because they give individuals some control in participating (or choosing not to participate) in addressing how they’ve been affected by crime and what might help them deal with the consequence and possibly heal.
Read all of Lorenn's post, "Restorative Justice for Making Plea Bargains," here.
Other relevant posts regarding this case can be found here.