One of the most important aspects of court accompaniment is the prevention of any re-victimization to survivors. In addition, court accompaniment should help to minimize the emotional pain and to restore a sense of power and control to the survivors. In order to accomplish this, it is extremely important that POMC® advocates have a working relationship with those professionals who work within the system.
Members wishing to provide court accompaniment must have a basic understanding of:
- the criminal courts in their area
- the criminal procedures
- laws and sentencing guidelines regarding “murder charges/convictions”
Information provided to survivors should include:
- Date of the trial
- Approximate length of time the trial may last
- Possibility of continuances
- Specific charges/penalties
- Rights of victims/survivors
- Rights of the defendant
- Role of the prosecutor
- Role of the defense attorney
- “Not guilty” plea
- Plea bargaining (their specific input)
- Guilty verdict (beyond a reasonable doubt/unanimous)
- Familiarization with the layout of the courtroom
- Chances of being permitted to sit through the trial if they are to be called as witnesses
- The possibility of being subpoenaed in order to keep them out of the courtroom
- Glossary of terminology *
- Felony Flow Chart *
*Varies from state to state. For more information regarding the criminal justice system, order POMC’s booklet “Path Through the Criminal Justice System.” Anticipatory guidance regarding:
- Whether or not to remain in the courtroom when exhibits are being displayed, such as clothing, photos, etc.
- Whether or not to remain in the courtroom when testimony is being given that may cause further trauma, such as coroner’s report, unfavorable testimony, etc.
- Whether or not to respond to the media.
For survivors who will be arriving from out-of-town, other issues need to be taken into consideration, such as:
- Can someone meet them at the airport
- Hotel accommodations
- Taxi cab service
Just as support and nurturing are important in helping survivors work through their grief; providing information is one of the key elements in a successful court accompaniment program.
It is important for court advocates to understand boundaries and not attempt to provide legal advice, make any statements that reflect negatively on those working in the system, make any predictions as to the outcome of the case or speak/make assurances on behalf of others.
Please contact the National POMC Headquarters for more information.