MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Miriam Shehane, a crusader for crime victims’ rights, was honored by the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Fund Thursday for her 37 years of service.
In 1982, Alabama had no laws to support crime victims. That changed because of Shehane, who began seeking justice for crime victims after her daughter, Quenette Shehane, was tragically murdered.
The 21-year-old had just graduated from Birmingham Southern College in 1976 and stopped to pick up salad dressing at a convenience store for dinner with her boyfriend when she was abducted by three men, raped and shot to death.
One of Quenette’s killers was executed. The other two were sentenced to life in prison.
In the following decades, Miriam Shehane became a crusader for other victims and founded Victims of Crime and Leniency, also known as VOCAL, which is headquartered in Montgomery.
“I just thought things needed to change,” Shehane said following Thursday’s ceremony. “All these years, we had set up things that had helped the defendant. It was always the defendant, the defendant. And nobody was doing anything for the victims, so I thought that needed to change.
And change came.
“She saw all these things that were wrong, and she kept saying this is not right, I’m going to do something about it,” explained VOCAL’s executive director, Janette Grantham, during a 2022 interview to mark VOCAL’s 40th anniversary. “Victims were not allowed in the courtroom. The prosecution only got one jury strike when the defendant got two.”
Shehane, until 2022, had served on the Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission almost continuously since its creation in 1984.
According to the commission, Shehane has tirelessly advocated for crime victims since her daughter’s murder. She is considered by many to be the “Mother of Victims’ Rights” in Alabama.
The commission says it is grateful for Shehane’s many years of service.
The commission helps victims of violent crime with qualified, actual expenses and is funded by a Victims of Crime Act federal grant and by fines, fees and restitution paid by criminal offenders in Alabama and the federal court system. The commission’s help includes assistance with funerals, lost wages, counseling, medical expenses, and rehabilitation services and also pays for all sexual assault examination kits for evidence collection.