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“Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights” to appear on November ballot

Thursday, Apr 10, 2014

* From a press release…

State Senator Heather Steans (D-Chicago 7th) has secured passage of “Marsy’s Law,” an amendment that would strengthen the Illinois Constitution’s Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. The Senate unanimously approved the resolution to put the amendment on the November 2014 ballot.

“Today is the culmination of years of work to ensure that victims’ rights not only are a part of our constitution but will be promptly enforced,” Steans said. “This amendment is about safeguarding victims’ dignity, privacy, right to information and right to be heard throughout the extremely difficult process of bringing the perpetrator to justice.”

“I commend Senator Steans on her tireless advocacy and work to improve the treatment of victims and their families in their quest for justice,” Senate President John Cullerton said. “Because of this amendment, victims across the state may be given more opportunities to secure a sense of justice and closure.”

Marsy’s Law for Illinois is part of a nationwide movement to codify crime victims’ rights in every state. The push began in California, where the brother of murder victim Marsy Nicholas worked for the passage of a state constitutional amendment after his mother was confronted in a grocery store by Marsy’s accused killer, who had been released on bail with no notification to the family. In Illinois, Steans worked with Marsy’s Law for Illinois, House sponsor Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie), Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault and many law enforcement agencies and anti-violence groups to achieve strong victim protections that do not compromise the criminal justice system’s duty to public safety.

The Illinois Constitution currently contains a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights but does not provide an avenue for victims to assert those rights in court. If approved by voters, the amendment would require courts to hear and rule on a crime victim’s request for enforcement of any of his or her constitutional rights. Marsy’s Law would also add important protections, such as establishing that judges must take into consideration the safety of the victim and the victim’s family members when fixing bail, determining whether to release a defendant and setting conditions of release.

Both the House and Senate have now approved HJRCA 1, which will appear on ballots this November. Marsy’s Law will become part of the Illinois Constitution if three-fifths of those voting on the ballot question (or a majority of those voting in the election) vote in its favor.

The proposal is here. It passed the Senate 59-0.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


25 Comments
  1. - Upon Further Review - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Once again, why does this need to be in the Illinois Constitution? Would a statute not suffice?


  2. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 1:39 pm:

    Well, Sen. Steans head counting has gotten better.


  3. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 1:42 pm:

    To the Post,

    It is important that victims feel as safe as possible and strengthening that with this opportunity to pass, will allow that feeling of security to grow. That is a great thing.


  4. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 1:50 pm:

    ===Would a statute not suffice? ===

    No.


  5. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 1:51 pm:

    @Rhino Slider - this has been mentioned a few times over the past few days. Only 3 proposals originating from the GA are permitted. I’m not certain exactly how many this makes at the moment.

    There is apparently no limit to the number of popularly introduced initiatives, such as the term limits proposal.


  6. - Reformed Public Servant - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 2:06 pm:

    and so begins the beat of the drums to GOTV…this one will be another Dem victory, and likely by a landslide.


  7. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 2:08 pm:

    ===and so begins the beat of the drums to GOTV===

    Take a breath.

    This wasn’t a leadership dealio. It’s been kicking around for a few years and was pushed by anti-violence groups.


  8. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 2:31 pm:

    …and opposed by the state bar.


  9. - crazybleedingheart - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 2:37 pm:

    (One would think that would have thrown up a red flag or two. But apparently not.)


  10. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 3:23 pm:

    If this appears on the ballot I would be interested to know why the Bar association opposes this before voting on it.


  11. - FormerParatrooper - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    “…. would also add important protections, such as establishing that judges must take into consideration the safety of the victim and the victim’s family members when fixing bail, determining whether to release a defendant and setting conditions of release.”

    It is a shame that common sense has to be put as an Amendment. I have to see what the Bar has against this, but the wording here causes no undue hardship on the accused/convicted.


  12. - girllawyer - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 4:02 pm:

    The ISBA tends in criminal issues to be defense oriented. I expect they are concerned that this somehow will affect negatively a defendant’s rights. I’ve read the amendment and I don’t think it does but I think that is their concern.


  13. - The Dude Abides - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 5:27 pm:

    Thanks for the response @ girllawyer


  14. - FormerParatrooper - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 5:37 pm:

    @girllawyer. Thanks. Do you know where they stated their opposition?


  15. - DuPage Dave - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 5:53 pm:

    This seems completely unnecessary to me. It is an appeal to emotion based on a few incidents that are certainly awful but not cause to amend our constitution.


  16. - JoanP - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 6:34 pm:

    General rule: any law with someone’s name in the title is probably wrong- headed. And likely overkill.


  17. - gg - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 7:28 pm:

    This is wrong on many levels.
    But it feels sooo good.


  18. - Victim no more - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 10:53 pm:

    In 1977, my dad and sister were murdered in a random home invasion robbery. There were no victim rights, no office of victim services, no help of any kind. Prior to Marsy’s Law, only the murdered were victims and the dead had no rights. Marsy’s Law legally made me a victim and afforded me rights I didn’t have previously. A year ago I was able to testify in one of the assailants parole hearings; he recieved a 5 year denial and I walked out no longer feeling like a victim. I was now a survivor!! In 3 weeks I plan to testify again at his crime partners parole hearing. Marsy’s Law does not take away any rights of the suspects, but gives their victims the dignity, respect and an outlet for healing that they deserve. We never asked to be victims. It was thrown on us by the assailant. We deserve rights also!


  19. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Apr 10, 14 @ 11:40 pm:

    (1) The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy and to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice process.

    If only defendants could have those same rights enforced for them.

    The right to be present at the trial and all other court proceedings on the same basis as the accused, unless the victim is to testify and the court determines that the victim’s testimony would be materially affected if the victim hears other testimony at the trial.

    A terrible idea.

    Steve Chapman wrote against a victims’ right amendment at the federal level way back in 1996
    http://www.slate.com/articles/briefing/articles/1996/08/whats_wrong_with_victims_rights.single.html


  20. - Late to the Party - Friday, Apr 11, 14 @ 6:43 am:

    Maybe I’m just cynical but it seems to me that the GA is getting us in the habit of having constitutional amendments on the ballot. I wonder what they have up their sleeve.


  21. - Upon Further Review - Friday, Apr 11, 14 @ 8:10 am:

    @Rich Miller:

    I did not understand your response. Could you clarify or explain your position?

    Illinois Crime Victims already have a Bill of Rights as provided by Statute: 725 ILCS 120/4) (from Ch. 38, par. 1404)Sec. 4. Rights of crime victims.

    Why is it critical that these rights be added to the state constitution. Is the law ineffective?


  22. - Jennifer Bishop Jenkins - Friday, Apr 11, 14 @ 9:10 am:

    Great to see technical discussion and questions about WHY a constitutional repair is required for crime victims. Hard to keep this short but will try: Illinois’ 1992 Constitutional Amendment for Victims Rights was a start but actually created a problem in that it barred victims rights from any post-conviction proceedings. Without appellate relief, mistakes made in victim issues in cases could not be repaired. Only one other state in the nation - Oregon - did this and they removed theirs in 2008. A second problem of official recognition that victims had “standing” to assert their rights also had to be addressed. Victims have been told for decades in Illinois they did not have standing - meaning a strong enough relationship to a case that they could file a motion pertaining to their role in the case. So victims (like me) who were not allowed to make victim impact statements at offender sentencing had no recourse to ASK the court to allow them to practice our rights. Victims were not consulted before offender release, often endangering their lives. Victims could not go to the court and ask that restitution be included in the case. Defense attorneys would put victims on witness lists to keep them out of the courtroom, never intending to call them as witnesses, etc. Lots more information is available on the Marsy’s Law for Illinois website. The passage of HJRCA 1 puts on the ballot repairs for these problems. We all worked for 6 long years, negotiating language carefully with all stakeholders. The final product is a very good one that will increase communication and participation in criminal justice proceedings, something we are already seeing in other states with this language. Also it will keep already devastated crime victims from being further re-victimized during legal proceedings.


  23. - Upon Further Review - Friday, Apr 11, 14 @ 9:25 am:

    Jennifer:

    Thanks for the explanation.


  24. - Law Prof - Friday, Apr 11, 14 @ 10:09 am:

    Statutes have too often been ignored, which is why 2/3 of the states have victims rights in their constitutions. Changing a legal culture to provide dignity and respect to the very people harmed by crime has proved to be quite difficult.
    Victims rights do not give victims any control over decisions in the criminal process. Indeed they provide information, the ability to attend proceedings and to speak to prosecutors and judges. Prosecutors and judges have always had the discretion to listen to victims, but for cultural , rather than legal reasons have not. Victims rights make the government at least listen to the harmed person.
    Opponents do their best to caste this as a radical idea and that the sky will fall. Experience in the states providing enforceable rights reveal this to be mere hyperbole.
    This is a law that will make our criminal process more civilized, and treat citizens harmed by crime like people.
    On the level of fundamentals victims rights legal scholars have identified victims rights as resting on two basis. First minimizing the harm to victims by the criminal process itself, also known as minimizing secondary victimization. Second, the exclusion of victims from criminal processes occurred between about 1875 and 1975, when the country was founded victims were actively involved. It was the lawyers who squeezed them out over time. WHile a return to those days is not desireable, there is no argument to be made that victims rights are somehow “novel” in this country’s history.
    Finally, the exile of victims from the criminal process has been based on a flawed foundation that only the state is harmed by crime. Try selling this idea to a rape victim or a homicide survivor. Victims’ rights recognize that a victim is harmed by crime and that certain, remarkably modest accommodations should be extended to them.


  25. - Precinct Captain - Friday, Apr 11, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    ==Statutes have too often been ignored==

    You’re joking that only statues are ignored, right? The 15th Amendment was ignored for how long? The 14th? Even the 13th (see immediately post-war period and peonage trials). If it is a cultural argument you are making, laws mean little.


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