The Reality of a Broken Justice System

October 14, 2011 By Lauren and Tom

This is the post you’ll want to sit down with a pot of coffee, give yourself a half hour, and then find a way to vent the anger and frustration that anybody with a soul will be feeling; I suggest a bike ride, or a stiff Jack and Coke.  Cheers.

Special Disclaimer

Truth is an absolute defense against slander and libel. Now I know that only is really true when there are unlimited funds to defend oneself from somebody who files litigation claiming that they are the victim of slanderous or libelous actions.  I’m sure there are cases in which an individual has told the complete truth and been ruined, bankrupted, or burned at the stakes; being right doesn’t always mean being the victor, and being a martyr isn’t always a guaranteed checkmate. 

Opinion is a defense against slander and libel.  Please note I clearly mark my opinions throughout

You want a bit of a tell-all; here you go…

The Criminal Justice System is a Joke

Jerry Lowery, the driver of the shuttle bus for The Wedding; appears to have been able to get off of facing any criminal responsibility from the actions he is was responsible for on June 5, 2010.  It took 11 months of pressing the prosecutor’s office for reckless homicide and criminal recklessness charges before we were told that even though it appears he was improperly licensed, ran a red light, killed one and injured 14 others; that the infractions did not rise to the level of recklessness.  At that point we regrouped and decided to focus our anger and frustration on working to change the laws in Indiana to include a vehicular manslaughter/homicide statute so other victims weren’t faced with the reality that the system we are taught to believe in doesn’t always have a resolution for those that are responsible for injuring and killing others.  Lauren and I did not, and do not, hold the prosecutors or the police responsible for the lack of appropriate statutes on the books as they can only enforce what exists.

We were told that he would be receiving a ticket for running a red light…it was a bitter pill to swallow that the cost of a taking a life and changing many others was around $150; but at least it was the justice system doing what they could.  Imagine my surprise when Monday afternoon I discovered that Jerry Lowery’s red light ticket that he was issued was dismissed by the court for “not timely filed”. 

Public Record Case Summary, Redactions for Privacy Purposes

We don’t know all the facts at hand and it doesn’t appear we will learn them at this point.  I am not sure if the court tossed it or if Lowery petitioned for it to be dismissed.  I do know that the irony is we were “offered” the ticket to try and make us feel better about the lack of criminal charges; and yet the only reason the ticket wasn’t issued in the weeks after was because it would have brought Double Jeopardy into play if they charged Lowery criminally down the road.  And while I have strived to not put the weight of responsibility for what I feel is a mishandling of our case on anyone but those responsible for The Crash itself; I now do question the handling of both IMPD and MCPO in terms of how this whole situation was handled. 

I’ve reached out to both IMPD and MCPO to get further information and while the lead investigator was responsive on Monday and said he would get back to me; he has not yet, and honestly I would be shocked if he did.  The current mantra of those involved is “if we don’t respond to it or deal with it directly, it isn’t an issue”. 

The Civil Justice System is Victimizing

On the civil front; I want to call to attention just how broken the system really is…

It’s been over 16 months since this happened; in my opinion The Defense and John Mavris have been incredibly uncooperative with scheduling events to help the process move along.  We still don’t have deposition dates for The Defense and it appears we might not have those done until January or February due to “scheduling conflicts” (I think that is the term defense attorneys use when they want to delay as much as possible); we still don’t have all the facts available since Lowery, Mavris, or Vanessa Chavez/Yuknis have not given any formal statement to either us or the police during the course of discovery or to my knowledge the criminal investigation.  Further; in my opinion, The Defense has not fully cooperated with us in discovery.  Mavris was quoted in the Indianapolis Business Journal back in April (article here) saying there were “several” other policies in addition to the policy that is being fought about and yet, the only “other policy” we know is the bus policy itself.  I count “one”, not “several” as he is quoted.  My logical conclusion of opinion and opinion is then; he either lied to the IBJ or The Defense has not yet turned over all documents in discovery…

There has been a lot of press here in Indianapolis recently about the Indiana State Fair tragedy  The media has been having a field day about how the victims are getting stuck with medical bills they aren’t responsible for and can’t pay; two months after the event occurred.

Welcome to the harsh reality of being a victim and how the broken system of civil litigation can continue to victimize someone long after the original causation occurs.  We have been incurring out of pocket costs for this since June 5, 2010. 

Here is my most recent receipt for a month of my brain meds:

$436.31; for 30 days, just one receipt, I’ve got dozens more like it from doctors, therapists, neurologists, pharmacies, ect.  I still have not calculated the total costs yet of everything and don’t really want too; but I do estimate we’re bleeding about $1000 a month cash out of pocket (early on it was less, now it might be more) between medications, required treatments, and both of our psychologists.  That’s a grand a month, out of pocket for a newlywed couple (ironically that costs a hell of a lot more than our mortgage); not to mention the obvious medical bills that have not been paid yet by anyone that keep stacking up.

My point here is this; I/we aren’t looking for sympathy.  We’ll fight through this and “be okay” on the other side.  The reality is I have never been shy about speaking my thoughts on everything in life and I refuse to start now.  The system of litigation and what a victim must go through is as victimizing and painful as The Crash itself.  If defense attorneys use that to their advantage to wear down and break the spirit of the true victims; shame on them.  I really want to ask any defense attorney “what would you do if this was your daughter, son, daughter-in-law, or son-in-law? “  I bet the system would suddenly seem “broken” to them as well when they are on the other side (which I would never wish upon anyone).

I guess there is one upside in all this though; the ongoing litigation has no end date and at this point seems like it could go on forever.  The “upside” in that is that for many years I wanted to go to law school and become an attorney; but the “crash course” (ironic name, eh?) of the real world of both the criminal and civil courts has shown me that it wouldn’t be a good fit for me.  I expect people to do the right thing and put it all on the table, and it’s becoming clearer to me that the system encourages people to do just the opposite.  Though, by the time all is said and done, I feel like I should be able to get an honorary J.D. for all of this, especially because at this point law school and resolution of our litigation both may have sucked up an equal amount of time in my life.

Don’t confuse my tone of anger with bitterness.  I have no doubt that this entry will upset, anger, and yet gain support from different facets of those both directly involved and those that are just casual readers of The Blog.  I only speak with what I can either directly back up with facts or make it clear that something is my opinion.

A Public Letter to John Mavris

Since I can’t directly contact John Mavris; I’ll put it out here for the world to see:

Mr. Mavris:

In your blog Bla, Bla, Bla Mavris dated 3/26/2011; you write:

“I need your help with one more issue. This whole thing about the accident. I am so sad that any of these people had to attach a memory like this to their special day. I really don’t think fault plays a role in the forgiveness.
I am asking that you please help this one go from me as well.
Please God, I know you know what is best for me. Please help me see it.

Your numerous references to God and Forgiveness in your public writings have not gone unnoticed by me.  I’m not asking God for help Mr. Mavris; I’m asking you to stand behind your words and am asking you to help move this process along.  God isn’t the one dragging this process along and causing further pain and suffering to Lauren and I; the pain and suffering we are experiencing is tied directly to what in our opinion is your actions and inaction’s related to all of this.  I’m not sure what faith you follow Mr. Mavris; but several of these passages out of the various versions of the Bible seem to come to mind when I think of you:

“If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution. (English Standard Version Bible; Exodus 22:14)

“Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.'” (New International Version {1984}; Jeremiah 15:19)

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. “(English Standard Version; 1 John 1:9, 10)

“Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.  It’s your sins that have cut you off from God.  Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. (New Living Translation; Isaiah 59:1-2)
In the letter you sent to Lauren and I dated June 10, 2010; you wrote “Knowing emotions will change as we move forward my heart remains the same; in sorrow for this tragedy.”  It seems you understand the tragedy of the day; now I ask you to step up and do the right thing to allow us to attempt to begin to heal by aiding the process by speedily resolving litigation with honesty and truth instead of hiding behind your attorneys.

-Tom Hanley

Closing and Request

So there it is folks; the most public statements I have made relating to all of this.  Defense attorneys; have a field day with it…but I stand by my words and refuse to be intimidated for speaking out against the current system.

I do ask that no matter how angry or upset you feel after reading this; you do not contact/harass/email/call/whatever else those that are responsible.  I know how easy it is to find contact information on the Internet; but even with all my anger and frustration I have gone out of my way not to reveal contact information beyond names of those involved with this.  It’s one thing for me to share our story with the public, but we don’t encourage or want anyone to become activists in any way; that’s what the courts are for and why we filed our lawsuit in the first place.
Cheers (dreaming of resolution to all of this…someday)