Defense-victim outreach pioneer Tammy Krause earns CJP Alumni Award for Outstanding Service

Tammy Krause, a 1999 graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, is the second recipient of the center's Alumni Award for Outstanding Service. Krause, a resident of Harrisonburg, Virginia, has worked on federal capital cases throughout the United States for the past 19 years. (Photo by Andrew Strack)

Tammy Krause, a 1999 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), has been selected for the center’s Alumni Award for Outstanding Service.

Krause, a resident of Harrisonburg, Virginia, has worked on federal capital cases throughout the United States for the past 19 years. Her involvement in the legal profession began as a graduate student at CJP, when she joined Professor Howard Zehr at the invitation of capital defense attorneys to work with victims of the Oklahoma City bombings.

Since then, she has pioneered defense-victim outreach, known as DVO, in which an independent intermediary seeks to build professional relationships between the defense attorneys and the victim’s family in an effort to ensure that victim concerns are addressed. Her work with the Department of Justice has included several high-profile cases, including the trial of Zacharias Moussaoui.

“Tammy is among those graduates who have taken restorative justice into areas well beyond anything I had imagined,” said Zehr, who has been both a mentor and colleague. “In creating and practicing this work, she drew heavily upon and integrated what she had learned about restorative justice and peacebuilding at CJP. In my estimation, she represents much of what we hope from our graduates. As a pioneer and leader in a new field of justice and peace building, she is very deserving of this recognition.”

The CJP Alumni Award for Outstanding Service is given annually “to CJP alumni who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to CJP’s mission of supporting conflict transformation, restorative justice, trauma healing, development, organizational leadership and peacebuilding efforts at all levels of society,” according to Daryl Byler, CJP executive director.

The first award was conferred in 2015 to Ali Gohar, MA ’02, founder and executive director of Just Peace Initiatives in Pakistan.

All of the 450 alumni who have earned master’s degrees or graduate certificates in conflict transformation from CJP are eligible.

Krause will accept the award this summer during a luncheon event at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute.

‘An incredible opportunity to help’

The catalyst for Krause’s involvement – indeed for the creation of her profession – was a phone call to Zehr from attorney Dick Burr, then a lead attorney on the defense team of Timothy McVeigh. McVeigh was accused (and later convicted and executed) of planning the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995, in which 168 people were killed and hundreds injured.

“I found it difficult … not to be able to interact in any fashion and to absorb the enormous grief and loss and pain that came into the courtroom through these innocent people,” Burr recounts in a 2013 Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice webinar, “and I pledged not to have it happen that way again, on whatever capital case I was involved in.”

In March of 1997, midway through the trial, Burr reached out to Zehr, an expert in restorative practices, to explore some way of interacting with victims. Krause was eventually drawn into the case: her first experience as liaison (only a few victims agreed to speak with the defense by phone) for three months until the end of the trial became her practicum.

About six months after the conclusion of the trial, Krause returned to Oklahoma City to meet some of the family members she had only spoken with by phone. What she learned from them was disconcerting: “They thought the government would give them answers by going to trial, but because Timothy McVeigh never talked, they had less information. It was even worse for them because they had these hopes for the trial and they were never realized.”

Zehr and Krause eventually facilitated a meeting between defense lawyers and victims’ families – the outcome of which led to Krause beginning to work on the concept full-time. “It was in talking to the people and hearing their stories of their suffering and their fear, but also of their resilience, and the questions they had about why – that convinced me.” Krause recalled. “It was an incredible opportunity to help.”

Between victims and justice

Over the next several years, with the help of Zehr, the CJP community and Dick Burr, Krause developed a model and best practices. A Soros Justice Fellowship in 1999 and an Ashoka Fellowship in 2001 helped her promote the model within the judicial system and build a network of trained liaisons. From 2003 to 2007, she worked as a victim outreach coordinator for the federal public defenders.

Krause now holds a PhD in law at the University of Manchester, and since returning from a four-year stay in England, has continued her work with the federal government in victim outreach.

Her choice has not been easy: it took four years away, while she was in England, to recover from the 10 years she had spent working with victims: while many details are confidential, Krause can share that much of what she does is “sitting with pain, holding pain.”

“Often in law, we deflect those emotions, we diminish or exacerbate pain, but we don’t just let it be. That’s my job and it’s not easy to do. Hearing this stuff, the inhumanity of these acts, the grief – it rips you apart.”

She interacts with people who have lost loved ones and who are struggling to understand not only what happened but why it happened and the motivations of the person or people who made it happen. She also helps victims and survivors understand the process of law, which can seem arbitrary, unintelligible and unfair.

“It is never about you,” Krause said. “You have to constantly ask that, to check in with yourself when you’re out there doing this work. Am I doing harm?”

She’s deeply appreciative of the award, she said, and humbled by the honor from a place that remains a source of sustenance and strength. “CJP’s teaching of the reflective practitioner has given me a place to come to where people are asking those same questions: am I doing this right? There’s a bond created in that integrity, in that honesty of trying to figure that out. I’ll be forever grateful for that.”

Published January 2016.