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Wisconsin Could Strengthen Crime Victims Rights On April 7

Wisconsin voters will see a referendum question to amend the state constitution to strengthen the rights guaranteed to victims of crimes in its next election.

Question 1 asks voters if the “rights of crime victims be protected with equal force to the protections afforded the accused while leaving the federal constitutional rights of the accused intact.”

The complete Wisconsin language is here.

Similar initiatives are known as Marsy’s Law, named after Marsalee (Marsy) Ann Nicholas, a University of California Santa Barbara student, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

A week after her murder and on the way home from the funeral service, Marsy’s family stopped at a market to pick up a loaf of bread. In the checkout line, Marsy’s mother was reportedly confronted by her daughter’s murderer. The family received no notification from the judicial system that he had been released on bail.

While those accused of crimes have more than 20 individual rights spelled out in the Constitution, the surviving family members of murder victims have none. Marsy’s Law allows victims to attend all proceedings in their case and allow them to refuse to sit for some depositions.

Thirteen states have passed a ballot measure for Marsy’s Law.

But some opponents say the Wisconsin question on the ballot is misleading, and the approval of the amendment would cause harm to the legal system, drawing out the legal process, costing more money and interfering with the constitutional rights of the accused. 

Marsy’s Law would collides with the Sixth Amendment charge “the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor,” according to critics. 

Marsy’s Law says victims shall be entitled “to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused.”

The meassure seems to run amuk of the Bill of Right by taking away the ability of the accused to adequately defend themselves, according to critics.

Police officers and corporations might claim to be victims and then get handed a basket of special rights, opponents say.

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