Many people won’t know this, but sadly, too many will. When you are a family member of a loved one who has been murdered, you live with an “inside knowledge” you can never shake. No matter how much you want to.
No one wants to be an expert “victim.” But lately, that’s what it feels like we have become. My family was branded in 1984, when a man with a knife saw my beautiful teenaged sister walking on a dark country road. His state of mind was impaired by alcohol and anger, because his live-in girlfriend had left him that day. She rented a U-Haul, packed up her belongings, and drove off to stay with relatives who lived more than 200 miles away.
I guess that’s enough to drive a violent, sick individual to kill a stranger.
Some excuse, huh?
It is hard not to draw comparisons to news stories of this nature, especially when one of the stories that continues to smack you in the face is the one that comes from “The Trial of the Century,” the OJ Simpson case.
The airing the other night on Fox of “The Lost Interview” with OJ Simpson brought up a lot of familiar details for my family. Aside from the obvious -– the horrific stabbing deaths of the two victims, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ron Goldman -– the program delivered several moments in which I caught myself talking out loud to the television. Well, not talking. Reacting, you might say.
A few takeaways, in my opinion:
- The guilty always return to the scene of the crime.
- The guilty blame the victims for what happened.
- The guilty hide from testifying at trial, but think they can manipulate a different opportunity to “tell” their version of the story.
We experienced this in our case, the case of David Weinberg killing Joyce Stochmal in 1984. I wonder how many other victims’ families have noticed these trends, when they hear about a national news story of murder, and relate it to their own experiences.
I was glad to see, in the reporting about this OJ interview program, that it was pointed out that Simpson did not testify during his murder trial.
For all his fame, his experience as a sports star, movie star, and commercial pitch man, Simpson did not take the stand in his own defense during his trial. It seemed to go against everything he was about, being in the spotlight, having all eyes, all attention on him.
We all know that Simpson was acquitted of murder in the criminal trial. He was found liable, however, in a civil trial. The difference, to most people, may be hard to understand. The system is complicated, and at times, grossly unfair.
Obviously, our judicial system does not require an accused person to testify during a trial. The burden is on the state to prove guilt, not on the accused to prove innocence. But don’t tell me there are not a lot of people out there who interpret that failure to speak for oneself as being just a bit hard to comprehend. Innocent people will say they are innocent, or one would think.
In our case, convicted murderer David Weinberg also did not testify. He never told state police he did not kill my sister, Joyce. They asked him. He said nothing. He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
And then, the unthinkable happened. He got out. Last year, the Connecticut judicial system freed Weinberg as a convicted murderer still guilty. They put no restrictions on him. He can live where he chooses. He has no requirements to report to any legal authority. He is the killer of record of 19-year-old Joyce Stochmal, and he is a free man who served 26 years of a life sentence for his crime.
Weinberg told a different version of his “story” when he willingly chose to testify in a habeas corpus civil claim in 1997. He lost that habeas attempt to get out of prison, but he filed another one. Because that is what our system currently allows – limitless habeas claims if you can come up with a different angle for suggesting you have been “illegally” incarcerated.
Just like OJ Simpson, Weinberg, it seems, offered his own take on the case of my sister’s vicious murder. It seems now, after three-plus decades, he thinks he can proclaim innocence.
And just like OJ Simpson, he is not believable.
For more information on the Joyce Stochmal murder case and her family’s efforts to effect reform of Connecticut’s criminal justice system, follow Justice for Joyce on Facebook, and Mare Heffernan on Twitter.
©️2018 By Marianne Heffernan