What is it going to take before you guys do something?
When I am dead?
– Tiana Angelique Notice
Tiana Angelique Notice was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend James Carter III on February 14, 2009. That’s the day I started this blog. Today my little blog that could will reach the half million visitor milestone, and this story chills me to the bone and makes me livid because the cops didn’t do shit until two months after her death:
For the five weeks between the issuance of the restraining order and her murder, Tiana did everything in her power to persuade the police to protect her from Carter based on his persistent, threatening conduct.
Yesterday, her family won a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against Plainville, Connecticut. Her mother Kathy Lewis vowed to “hold [the police] responsible” for failing to protect Tiana from Mr. Carter’s escalating violations of the restraining order. Her father Alvin Notice is superintendent of prisons in Massachusetts. Her sister Natasha Smith-Notice lectures about violence against women at Emory University in Atlanta. Tiana was a semester away from receiving a Master’s Degree in Communication from the University of Hartford.
The State of Connecticut investigated the systemic dysfunctions and failure to protect Ms. Notice. Quite frankly, it is the story of almost every domestic violence homicide. Judge Prestley was a clueless twit who minimized the violence Ms. Notice was experiencing and failed to comprehend the gravity of the evidence presented to her:
. . .the Court’s tenor is problematic. It seems that the Court lacked the basic understanding regarding identifying red flags in domestic violence cases which were present during the hearing. . .In this case the presiding Judge’s demeanor during the hearing appears from the record to be almost jovial or flippant towards Tiana and Carter. . .
Additionally, the Judge minimizes the threat voiced by Tiana by reference to Tiana and Carter as, “Romeo and Juliet” to Carter’s mother. Furthermore, at the end of the hearing, the Judge asked Tiana and Carter whether they would be back together in a week. Clearly, the comments from the bench indicate a lack of appreciation for the difficulties faced by many victims of domestic violence who attempt the brave step of leaving an abuser only to be forced to return to their abusers for one reason or another. There are countless reasons why a domestic violence victim may return, but one thing is clear here, that a victim in this Courtroom would be hard pressed to return to Court for another restraining order after this experience.
When dealing with domestic violence, it is these little nuisances that an untrained eye may not indentify, but that a Judge must be cognizant of in order to determine the motive behind a respondent’s request for a mutual order, especially when the order is sought in close proximity to the full hearing date, as was the case here. . .
The investigation harshly criticized the callous indifference of the police:
The manner in which Officer Leon interacted with Tiana, which, if his report is any indication, was at best condescending, and some may even interpret him to be hostile. . .
The contacts the Waterbury Police Department had with Kathy Lewis, Tiana’s mother, were dismissive and trivializing, which allude to a mind set of the Officers involved that is problematic to the protection of crime victims and is in stark contrast to the basic understanding of how the police should interact with the community, especially the parent of a victim of domestic violence seeking assistance. . .when the victim of domestic abuse and/or his or her family state that they are afraid for their safety we who serve in the criminal justice system must stand up and hear their cry. And, more importantly, take steps necessary to promote safety and ensure the protection of all victims. Although it is not easy to work in a field which demands that you always access which cases are lethal and be on notice at all times to indentify the signs of danger, the price that is paid when the system ignores the cry of a victim is not one we can afford to pay.
Mr. Carter was found guilty and was given the maximum sentence of 65 years by Judge Frank D’Addabbo for stabbing Ms. Notice to death and violating her restraining order. Her family started the Tiana Angelique Notice Memorial Foundation and successfully lobbied for GPS monitoring legislation with the help of Harvard Law professor Diane Rosenfeld.
After the jury’s $10 million verdict for the family, Scott Karsten, one of the defendants’ attorneys, had the audacity to opine:
Connecticut police officers, and their municipal employers, simply cannot be required to be absolute protectors of every potential victim of crime, however uncertain the commission of that crime may be.
Sadly, his attitude remains pervasive in most police departments. Ms. Notice’s tires were slashed. Mr. Carter violated the restraining order with escalating threats. What did the cops do? They sent her on a wild goose chase and erected bureaucratic hurdles to avoid doing their job of protecting her. In my book, they are as guilty of Ms. Notice’s murder as Mr. Carter.
I applaud the Notice family for their courageous and diligent attempts to protect Tiana and to honor her life with advocacy. And, I weep with them for her loss. Ms. Smith-Notice believes:
We need to work on creating positive media images of men and women in healthy relationships.
In 2009, I wrote extensively about Vernetta Cockerham’s successful wrongful death lawsuit in North Carolina. Washington State prides itself as being progressive on the issue of violence against women. Yet, almost every victim of domestic violence sought help before her murder. I stridently believe that the criminal “justice” system will not change absent significant jury verdicts which hold police departments accountable for their failure to protect.
Related links and posts:
Jury Awards $10M In Wrongful Death Suit Against Police by Christine Dempsey, Hartford Courant, April 28, 2014
The Day I Became a Secondary Survivor by Natasha Smith-Notice, Women’s News and Narratives, Emory University, Fall, 2009
BRAVO: “SILENCED” BY RIKKI KING, EVERETT (WA) DAILY HERALD, 2/21/11 [Investigate report into DV homicides in Washington State]
Victory for Vernetta, 7/1/09
O Magazine: Vernetta’s Story, 7/13/09
He Liked Seeing the Fear, [Vernetta Cockerham’s story], Stalked: Someone’s Watching, season 4, episode 3, 12/16/13