Opinion: Machete-attack survivor confident a Maine Marsy’s Law is critical for victims

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the middle of the night on May 27, 2008, and I was asleep in bed when my house alarm woke me up from a dead sleep. What happened next can only be described as unimaginable.

I entered the hallway to uncover the disturbance and was viciously attacked by a machete-wielding intruder. I could do nothing to stop the attacker from then turning on my innocent 10-year-old daughter and harming her beyond all belief. The terror was indescribable.

Neither my daughter nor I was supposed to survive, but we did. What happened that night changed our lives and the lives of our family forever. We are both left with permanent mental and physical challenges. One of the hardest parts is that this attack was likely avoidable and preventable.

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Portland Press Herald
William Guerrette Jr.
April 5, 2018

The man who directed the attack on us was out on bail from jail for a robbery he had committed against me in my home – the home we were attacked in – six months before. He had failed to appear at the trial on the robbery. A judge had issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

We had no knowledge of his failure to appear, that the trial had been called or that the judge had issued a new warrant for his arrest. Had I known any of this information, I could have taken appropriate actions to protect myself and my family. However, since there is no constitutional requirement in Maine for victims of crime to be notified at key moments that affect their case, we were never told. This is why I believe we so need Marsy’s Law for Maine.

This proposed amendment to the Maine Constitution would make sure that individuals like me have rights in their cases equal to those of the people who have committed crimes against them. In my case, this could have made all the difference, allowing me to prepare for the worst-case scenario, potentially saving myself and my daughter from the indescribable pain and anguish, both physical and mental, that we still suffer from – not to mention the lifelong trauma the attack and its aftermath have caused my family.

Sunday marks the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. There are various events in Maine that commemorate this important week for people like myself and my family. The theme for this year’s events is “Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims.” According to the Office for Victims of Crime at the U.S. Office of Justice Programs, this theme emphasizes the importance of inclusion in victims’ services, helps better ensure that every crime victim has access to services and support and illustrates how professionals, organizations and communities can work in tandem to reach all victims.

I am a former Maine legislator, having served in the Maine House of Representatives. I know the difference between laws that seem to make a difference on the surface but really accomplish nothing, and those that actually can benefit myself and fellow citizens. I sincerely care about people and making their lives better. I have met the call to service for the people of Maine and continue to do so by supporting important community causes. And as the survivor of a nightmare that many cannot relate to, I am absolutely confident that Marsy’s Law for Maine is a critical next step in developing crime victims’ rights in this state. And it satisfies exactly what the mission of this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week calls for all of us to do: work together to reach all victims.

One of the men who is responsible for the attack on us is serving life, while the other was sentenced to 50 years in prison. I hope to still be alive when this man is released. However, if I am not, I need to be able to pass away with the peace of mind knowing that my little girl has the constitutional right to be notified of his release, so she and our family can protect her and make her feel safe for the rest of her life.

Next month marks 10 years since my daughter and I were violently attacked. Take my word: Statutory protections are simply not enough for families like mine. If there ever has been a cause for which it is appropriate to amend the Maine Constitution, this is it. Maine needs Marsy’s Law for Maine.