Connecticut has a new Victims Advocate in the person of Garvin Ambrose, formerly a prosecutor and political operative in Cook County, Illinois.
Chicago, murder capital if the United States, falls in the middle of Cook County facing windswept Lake Michigan, arguably the most politically corrupt county in the United States.
There was nothing wrong with the state’s previous Victims Advocate, Michele Cruz, whose job was put on the sale block after she had strenuously – and, more importantly for media conscious Governor Dannel Malloy and his Malloyalists, publically – opposed the state’s new early prisoner release program, the brainchild of undersecretary for criminal justice policy Mike Lawlor. Both Mr. Malloy and Mr. Lawlor were prosecutors before they began to dabble in politics.
As a prosecutor and a political operative, Mr. Ambrose can be expected to fit in well with other Malloyalists, principally Mr. Lawlor.
Mr. Lawlor has had a distinguished left of center career in law and penology.
Directly out of law school, he was appointed prosecutor for the State’s Attorney Office in New Haven, serving there until his election to the state House of Representatives in 1986. He is a Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of New Haven's Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences and also a Visiting Lecturer in Law at the Yale Law School. Co-chairman of the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee from 1995 to 2011, Mr. Lawlor, along with former senate co-chair Andrew McDonald, recently appointed by the governor to Connecticut’s Supreme Court, led the state in liberalizing laws relating to gays.
Four years ago, when Mr. Lawlor and Mr. McDonald attempted to change the apostolic nature of the Catholic Church by forcing upon the church a protestant administrative apparatus, many of their colleagues in the legislature, along with crowds of Catholics who assembled at the Capitol to protest a naked political intervention of the state into religious affairs, turned back a bill the two co-chairs of the judiciary committee had hoped to slide past their colleagues. Other vigilant legislators on the judiciary committee were successful in upholding the church’s first amendment rights, according to which the U .S. Congress – and, by extension, other state legislative bodies – are prohibited from writing laws that prohibit the free exercise of religion.
More recently, the Democratic controlled General Assembly abolished Connecticut’s death penalty only a few months after two paroled prisoners living in a halfway house invaded a home in Cheshire, beat the father of the family senseless with a baseball bat, raped a mother of two daughters, one of whom was also raped by one of the prisoners, and set the house on fire, killing all inside but the father, who had escaped and testified against the two at trial. The two “three times and you’re not out” professional criminals were sentenced to death. However, a short time after sentence was pronounced, the Democratic dominated legislature and governor passed into law a bill abolishing the death penalty for all but those awaiting punishment on death row. As co-chair of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Lawlor strongly favored abolition.
As a state legislator, Mr. Lawlor was instrumental in derailing a “three strikes and you’re out” bill that would have increased punishments for repeat offenders. Mr. Lawlor strongly opposed an effort in the late 1990s to relieve overcrowding in state prisons by transferring prisoners to Virginia, preferring instead “alternative ways of combating overcrowding,” according to a New York Times report, “like making it harder to put people back in prison for technical violations of their parole,” arguing that “transfers should be a last resort."
The jewel in Mr. Lawlor’s crown, however, is Connecticut’s trouble prone early release Risk Reduction Earned Credits program.
The chief problem with Mr. Lawlor’s brainchild is that it offers a window of opportunity to violent criminals such as Frankie “The Razor” Resto, so called because Mr. Resto occasionally used a razor to shake down lower level drug pushers. Released early, Mr. Resto, who had engaged in drug activity while in prison, where he had burned his mattress before receiving Mr. Lawlor’s credits, traveled to Meriden where he shot the co-owner of an EZMart, Ibraham Ghazal, killing him with a gun he probably had not lawfully purchased. Connecticut laws, not one of which such criminals respect, prohibits murder and the unlawful purchase of hand guns by professional criminals such as Mr. Resto who, thanks to Mr. Lawlor’s opposition to “three strikes and you’re out” legislation,” was very much in business when he murdered Mr. Ghazal. Shortly after the murder of Mr. Ghazal, yet another graduate of Mr. Lawlor’s early release program murdered yet another store clerk in Manchester, and only last week Vernon Lloyd, another criminal with a long rap sheet suspected by police in ongoing shooting investigations, was early let loose upon his former pregnant girlfriend in Hartford, where he held her under duress for three days.
Under a “three strikes and you’re out” policy for flawed programs, Mr. Lawlor’s early release program would be quickly abandoned. But Mr. Lawlor and Mr. Malloy, both former prosecutors, are determined to persevere; to be sure, media criticism has been light, though the Journal Inquirer recently ran two stories on Mr. Malloy’s choice of Mr. Ambrose as Connecticut’s new Victim’s Advocate. Both stories cited objections from a group called IllinoisVictims.org that “wrote to lawmakers last week, questioning Malloy’s pick of Ambrose for the position. Ambrose had taken positions against measures that would boost victims’ rights in their state, the letter said.”
Mr. Ambrose, politically attuned and not likely to make waves, is expected to pass legislative scrutiny. He is in many ways a perfect fit for a political organization that has a Cook County flavor to it.