Thursday, February 07, 2002

In courtroom

Who will be there for victims?

        Vicki L. Glick stood quietly before Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Guy Guckenberger. She was wearing pale green jailhouse pajamas and the customary dazed expression. The 51-year-old woman is accused of killing her father Tuesday night at Mercy Hospital Anderson, shooting him four times as he lay in bed.

        Ms. Glick was accompanied Wednesday morning in court by her attorney, Peter Rosenwald, whom she had met minutes before. He told the judge his client is employed and has no known criminal record. She was ordered held on $250,000 cash bond. All this took approximately 90 seconds and was conducted inside the “bullet resistant” glass box of Courtroom A in the Hamilton County Justice Center.

Badge of confusion

        Low murmurs. Papers shuffled. A routine understood by everyone inside the box, except perhaps for the queue of accused. But even some of these are old hands, habitual visitors. Prisoners are led through the steps of that day's justice. A sheriff's deputy brings them from the “bullpen” where they wait their turn. Their attorney has told them what to expect, where to stand.

        Those in the wood pews on the other side of the glass listen to the proceedings through speakers. The victims and families of victims sit there.

        They are easy to recognize. They look confused. Sometimes angry. Sometimes anguished or bruised. But nearly always confused. Room A is the sorting-out place, the triage center for the courts. Wednesday, as he often is, Floyd Phelps was sitting in the gallery. From Talbert House Victim Service Center. He is, he says, “sort of a professional hand-holder.” And his specialty is confusion.

        Once he held the hand of a “little old lady, maybe 80 years old.” The victim of domestic violence, she spoke only Russian. “She was scared to death. Her interpreter dropped her off, but then just left.” Floyd called a friend who did a sort of telephone Berlitz.

Mysterious language

        Most of us probably don't understand much more of the language of the courtroom than the Russian woman did. OR. TRO. Bonds. Subpoenas. Gag orders. Victims need a translator. “People are thrown into the system overnight. They have no idea what's going on. We can walk them through the procedure, then help get them connected with what they need,” says Myra Guion, another Talbert House advocate for victims.

        The accused has an attorney. The victims, Myra says, “want to know who's here for them.” The advocates help them fill out forms to collect from Ohio's victim compensation fund. They put them in touch with counselors, maybe somebody from Parents of Murdered Children or MADD or Women Helping Women. Floyd, who retired after 27 years as a Cincinnati police officer, helped a stalking victim figure out how to put a motion detector on the balcony outside her apartment.

        “Whatever it takes,” he says. And it's free of charge to victims. Talbert House gets its money from several public and private sources, including United Way.

        The court appointed Mr. Rosenwald to represent Vicki Glick. Passionate, smart and effective — no matter who is paying the tab — Pete mounts a tough defense for his clients. As it should be.

        And it's only just that people like Myra Guion and Floyd Phelps will be working just as hard on the other side of the room.

        E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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