(The Center Square) – Angie Dowell’s fight to keep the man who murdered her father behind bars epitomized the spirit of Wednesday afternoon’s “Crime Victims’ Call to Action” on the north steps of the Capitol building in Olympia, Washington.
Her father, Loran Dowell, was murdered in a 1980 robbery of the Red Barn Tavern in South King County that claimed two other lives as well. The man convicted of the crime, Timothy Pauley, was sentenced to three life sentences, but after laws were changed in 1984, he became eligible for parole.
Pauley was scheduled to be set free last July, but Gov. Jay Inslee blocked it.
“And we are now waiting for the decision from the Court of Appeals, Division 1, to come out within the next month to determine whether or not they are going to release him,” Dowell told the crowd assembled at a gathering to highlight and honor crime victims.
In what was a common theme of the event, she highlighted the notion that criminals have more rights than victims in Washington.
“I clearly believe in my heart that victims are not heard,” said Dowell, one of many who spoke about how crime has affected their lives.
It was a sentiment shared by many speakers, including event organizers Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, and Rep. Jenny Graham, R-Spokane, both of whom have been personally impacted by crime.
“And over the years it has become very unbalanced,” Caldier said of rights afforded to criminals as compared to rights afforded victims. “And crime victims are not in our offices. They just aren’t.”
Crime victims are too busy dealing with grief, she said, and don’t automatically think of turning to lawmakers for help.
“You know, we have advocates for criminals in our office on a regular basis,” Caldier said. “And I think that is one of the reasons why Jenny and I were putting our heads together, because it’s like so painful for us.”
Caldier referenced the abuse she and her younger sister endured in their youth at the hands of a man their mother married who turned out to be a pedophile.
She said the justice system failed her and her sister.
“The day that he left was the day that I took my 7-year-old sister to get a rape kit done,” Caldier said, her voice cracking with emotion and tears flowing. “And I wound up in foster care, and for so many years I blamed myself because I thought if I just let him have his way with me he wouldn’t have touched my sister. That has haunted me for so many years.”
Graham, whose sister was a victim of infamous Green River Killer Gary Ridgeway, agreed.
She took Democrats who control the legislature to task for not doing more to help crime victims.
“It is our number one responsibility and the majority party is failing miserably – failing miserably,” Graham said of the state’s duty to protect citizens. “Crime victims are under the law, and at this point in time, from what I’ve seen in my last five sessions being here, the criminals are above the law. They have all the rights, all the resources. They have everything going in their way.”
This legislative session lawmakers are grappling to produce fixes for a police pursuit law enacted in 2021 largely seen as having resulted in a major increase in auto thefts and drivers refusing to stop for police, and the state Supreme Court’s February 2021 Blake decision effectively decriminalizing the possession of most drugs in Washington.
Graham touted some of her proposed legislative fixes, among them House Bill 1845 to create an office of the crime victims’ ombudsman within the state Department of Commerce.
“This would allow them to collect data, very important data, that I think is getting lost when it comes to having equal balance in our justice system,” she said. “It will also be a place for crime victims to go to when they don’t feel that they’re being treated fairly in our justice system.”
Graham went on to say, “Crime victims are the only ones that do not volunteer to be in our justice system, and sadly they are the only ones that have zero legal representation because the prosecutors represent the interests of the state.”
Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, summed up the main takeaway of the event.
“We can’t only focus on the incarcerated, on those who break the laws of our civil society,” he said. “We have to remember the victims. We have to remember the people who feel the pain when someone breaks the laws of civil society. And lately in Olympia – in what may be a well-intended start – we’re focusing too much on the ones who do wrong and not enough on ones who been done wrong to.”
This article First appeared in the center square