Ohio’s victims protected; Marsy’s law isn’t needed
Victims of crime deserve to be treated with respect and to be kept informed as the trial of the person accused of wronging them progresses.
And in Ohio, victims already have constitutional assurance of that through Article 1, Section 10A, which states: “Victims of criminal offenses shall be accorded fairness, dignity and respect in the criminal justice process, and, as the general assembly shall define and provide by law, shall be accorded rights to reasonable and appropriate notice, information, access and protection and to a meaningful role in the criminal justice process.”
Those rights are codified in the Ohio Revised Code and are honored by programs and practices at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, county prosecutors’ offices and sheriff’s departments and police departments across the state. The attorney general’s office distributes and has online a 40-page booklet that covers all aspects of the rights afforded victims in the state.
Ohio doesn’t need another constitutional amendment, especially one that is several times longer and would guarantee years of expensive legal challenges. We urge voters to reject state Issue 1.
Supporters of the issue, which is also known as Marsy’s Law, describe it in simplistic terms as an amendment that would give victims of crime rights that are equal to those afforded criminal defendants. That is a seductive appeal to everyone’s sense of fairness, but it is a hollow promise.
The Bill of Rights was added to the U.S. Constitution by men who recognized the danger inherent in a government that could deny criminal defendants life or liberty. It protects everyone against self-incrimination, warrantless search or seizure, double jeopardy, cruel and unusual punishment. It guarantees people the right to a speedy and public trial, to face their accusers, to have a process for obtaining favorable witnesses and to have the assistance of legal counsel.
These rights set the United States apart from any other country of its time, and they reflect a belief that it is better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer. Like other rights conferred by the Constitution – freedom of the press and speech, the right to peaceful assembly and the right to bear arms, for instance – these rights are sometimes sources of discomfort and even pain.
As good as it may sound, Marsy’s Law attempts to change the way Americans think about the law and the way the law is enforced.
Anyone who has been called to jury duty knows that crimes are considered to be against society as a whole and the government is responsible for prosecuting the defendant in front of an impartial jury and judge. Marsy’s Law attempts to inject multiple additional plaintiffs into the equation, the victim, who is defined in the issue as any “person who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense or act.”
Marsy’s Law is the creation of Henry T. Nicholas, a California tech billionaire whose sister, Marsalee Ann, 21, was murdered in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend. He has spent millions of dollars across the country promoting the Marsy’s Law concept.
In Ohio, Nicholas has spent more than $8 million to promote Issue 1. It is easy to understand why he thinks he is doing important work, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t misguided.
This is Ohio, not California, and it isn’t 1983. Ohio has been protecting the rights of crime victims and their families for decades.
An analysis by the Ohio Office of Budget and Management states that local governments face potential increases of costs to their courts systems, public defenders, victims’ advocates and administration of restitution. In Montana, where the law was passed last year, implementing it was described as “overwhelming” and a “nightmare” in a Bozeman Daily Chronicle article.
The associations of Ohio public defenders and prosecuting attorneys both oppose Marsy’s Law. It would delay justice and could actually hurt victims of crime. Like some other national legislative initiatives, it is a cookie-cutter solution to a problem that we don’t have.
Vote ”No” on Issue 1.