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Victim Impact Statement Lindsay M. Marti for Nathan B. Marti
April 23, 2009
Nathan Bradley Marti has been my little brother since February 23, 1982. I have no recollection of the approximately two years of my life before he was born. To me, up until my mother called me at 7:53 a.m. on June 5, 2007, Nathan was always alive in my world. To completely articulate the impact that Nathan’s death has had on my life truly is overwhelming and, I believe, impossible. I have written this victim impact statement in my head seemingly over a thousand times since the day the defendant decided he had a “good amount” to drink and recklessly chose to disregard my brother’s life, the lives of others on the road, the lives of his friends, and his own. The emotional and physical impact that Nathan’s death has had on me has forced me to live a life I don’t recognize and become a person I don’t know. Nathan and I were very close – two peas in a pod, one might say. We shared hopes, secrets, private jokes, and our lives with one another, and our common bond of being in the same family kept us close, I believe more so than many brothers and sisters experience. Nathan followed me from Massachusetts to Virginia for college, and we spent my senior year at James Madison University, Nathan’s freshman year at Radford University, traveling to and from each other’s school to spend time with one another. After he graduated from college in 2005, he again followed me, this time up to northern Virginia. Up until the day he died, we talked on the phone and exchanged emails many times a week, often spending time together at each other’s houses, our parents’ house, and a lot of other places; it didn’t matter where we were, we could always make it a good time. Today and for the rest of my life, I am mourning the loss of my brother, my best friend, my confidant, my protector. Nathan was a proud uniformed Diplomatic Security Officer at the Department of State in Washington, DC. Ever since childhood, he dreamt of being a police officer. When we were little and played “cops and robbers” with the neighborhood kids, Nathan always insisted on being the cop, never the bad guy. He had the qualities that I most associate with effective law enforcement: fairness, firmness, reliability, and an overall sense of caring for the wellbeing of those around him. Although he is younger than me, he had an older brother quality and he strived to make me feel safe and as if I could tell him anything without feeling judged. To emphasize his dream, here is what Nathan wrote as a high school senior in an autobiography project:
If I had the chance to have anything I wanted in life, it would be that I was a policeman. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be in that line of work … I have always liked helping others and being a policeman would make it be a full time job. There is just something about the role of a policeman plays in our society that I want to be part of. The respect they receive, the dignity that comes with the job, and the responsibility. I feel that I have what it takes to be part of all of that … I just have always wanted to be someone who helps others in their time of need, gets their cat down from the tree, or arrests their attacker. This is the only thing I have ever felt strongly about.
Nathan’s death has left me vulnerable and scared to face my life without him by my side, and forever
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saddened that he will never be able to realize his dream. I find it ironic that his death involves the legal system that he so badly wanted to enforce and uphold. I also find it impossible to say that any part of my life has not changed because of Nathan’s death. Every plan I’ve ever made has been with the notion that Nathan would be alive and well somewhere, at least a phone call away. I also am mourning the loss of so many hopes, dreams, and expectations. I’ll never have nieces or nephews, my brother’s children, to cuddle and buy presents for, or smile because they have my brother’s eyes or his infectious laugh. I’ll never wake up again on Christmas morning to Nathan laughing and urging me to come downstairs to go through our stockings before we wake our parents. Nathan and I won’t grow old together. He won’t be around to help take care of our parents as they age. I also take on the mourning of Nathan’s hopes and dreams. He never will be able to live out his full potential, helping people in need and making a difference in the world with his passion for life and his huge heart. Because of the defendant’s selfish, careless decision to drink and drive, I also mourn the loss of my own identity. I now assume the role of the youngest in the family. I don’t want this role. I have been the middle child, and this shift in family structure is unfamiliar and unfair. I have a close-knit group of friends with whom I have enjoyed spending time for many years. I no longer call them as much as I used to. I know that they can tell that I have changed as a person. I often used to seek out social events and coordinate fun plans with my friends before Nathan died. Now I long for the desire even to pick up the phone and chat for a few minutes. I started a new job less than two weeks after Nathan died. I struggle each day to focus on my work and to remain motivated to learn how to be the best at my job. I often decline lunch invitations from coworkers and eat lunch at my desk because I don’t feel up to being social with them. These people will never know the happier person I once was. I never will be whole again. I do not deserve to have my identity taken away by a thoughtless, negligent man who placed more importance on going out drinking with friends than on Nathan’s life and the lives of other people he could have killed. For the rest of our lives, we will have family gatherings, Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations, once joyous and festive occasions, now ruined because there is someone missing, an empty chair. We are able to smile and laugh together since Nathan’s death, but there’s now a moment punctuated by thoughts of who should be here smiling and laughing with us. We light a candle in his memory, but the flame does not come anywhere close to the feeling of one of Nathan’s warm and sincere hugs. I mourn the loss of my parents as I knew them. Confident and strong in the world around them, they were also my protectors. I have held my mother and father in my arms as they have wept for their only son, feeling an indescribable pain and helplessness because they hurt so much, and there’s nothing I can do. My heart will ache for my parents for the rest of my life. I mourn the loss of my once often happy and lively sister Adrienne, who now regularly occupies the other end of the phone line, and we cry and share our grief over losing our little brother, and I watch her try to find strength within herself to take care of her four children. Nathan’s death has necessitated doing things that I would never wish anyone would have to do: I packed his belongings from the townhouse he was renting, sorting through clothes, mail, papers, DVDs, CDs, and other things of his that made me feel as if I was stealing or violating his privacy. I made phone calls to arrange for a pastor to perform Nathan’s funeral service. I chose the necktie, undershirt, boxers, belt, and socks he wears in his casket. I personally called eight of his close friends to ask them to be pallbearers at his funeral. I completed the form to order his memorial marker at the
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cemetery where he is buried, writing out his full name, date of birth, date of death, and the saying to be placed at the bottom. Doing all of this caused me pain and anguish that will haunt me forever. Thinking about each surreal moment in the days following Nathan’s death makes me cry because I am forced to realize over again that I actually had to perform these acts, and that Nathan is, in fact, dead. No one made me do these things – I did them out of deep love for my brother; however, I am resentful that the defendant’s drunken decision and actions put me in the position to do these things in the first place. I live two-and-a-half miles from where Nathan died, and have not traveled that way on Interstate 395 North since he was killed. In the past, I drove that way countless times, but I likely never will drive that route again for the rest of my life. I have to live knowing that Nathan died alone, so close to me, while I was home sleeping soundly in my bed. Since Nathan’s death, I often wake in the middle of the night or early morning, feeling sadness in the pit of my stomach. This is now how I start each day. I never will forgive Vathana Chan for hurting Nathan and for taking the life of our son, our brother, our friend, and for causing my mother, father, and sister so much pain and anguish. I wish that he could completely feel the extent to which he’s ruined our lives. Your Honor, I am aware that a conviction of aggravated involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. I ask that you sentence Mr. Chan to 20 years in prison. He carelessly handed Nathan a death sentence and his family and friends a life sentence. Twenty years surely seem lenient considering the punishment that this irresponsible man dealt Nathan and his friends and family, all innocent victims. This sentence certainly will not bring Nathan back, but it is my hope that it will keep the defendant from committing such a heinous crime again. I believe that Nathan, an aspiring police officer, would ask for no less from the legal system in which he fully believed. I also hope that Nathan’s death was not in vain. This is my brother’s last chance to do good; a strict sentence for Mr. Chan has the potential to affect the thinking and actions of others, which could save lives. This is what my brother wanted more than anything: to save lives. Your Honor, I also ask that you order the defendant to pay my parents monthly restitution to repay the debt incurred for funeral arrangements and to act as a constant reminder for Mr. Chan of his life-shattering crime. Using his autobiography project, my statement concludes best by allowing Nathan to speak. He said:
I hope there never comes a time in my life that I have to write a Last Will and Testament. The thought of dying at this point in my life makes me sick. To die this young is just a tragedy … If I were to go, I would die happy knowing that I had tried my best to be who I am. My parents raised me to be a loving and caring person. They raised me to be kind to others and to be firm as well. They taught me what it meant to be confident and strong against all evils. I take pride in all of my characteristics. I have tried to live my life day by day and it’s hard. I never want to leave my family and friends behind … If this was my Last Will and Testament, I would leave all of my earthly belongings to my family and close knit group of friends … my money would be given to both of my parents to pay for whatever the cost was for my departing … It’s a big responsibility to have to make out a will in case of an untimely death so that your family is taken care of in your absence. It’s a sobering though. It’s a scary thought. I hope that when I go, my family and friends are happy and at peace with my death, knowing that we will all be together again some day.