As one of the leading legislative proponents of the crime victims’ constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law, I want to set the record straight on my friend Matt Batzel’s recent column and also ask fellow conservatives to join me in voting yes on Marsy’s Law.
The overarching goal of Marsy’s Law is simply to give victims of crime strong, enforceable rights – just like criminal defendants enjoy. Imagine you or a loved one is a victim of a terrible crime like rape or murder. Do you think none of your rights have been taken away as Batzel suggests? Do you think you should not have the right to be considered more than a disinterested observer by the state in the criminal justice process? I don’t feel that way, and I would guess you wouldn’t either. If you actually read the rights granted to crime victims in the proposed victim’s rights amendment, you will see they involve making sure the state treats a victim fairly in the criminal justice process.
Much of the opposition seems to be based in the notion that the rights of the accused will be diminished by the amendment. That assumption ignores that Marsy’s Law includes this language: “This section is not intended and may not be interpreted to supersede a defendant’s federal constitutional rights.” Plain as day in the proposed amendment is language making clear that a defendant’s rights, including the 6th Amendment right to confront his or her accuser at trial, are very much intact.
It is also incorrect to suggests that Marsy’s Law could slow down the wheels of justice. That ignores that one of the rights included in the amendment is the right “to timely disposition of the case free from unreasonable delay.” No one wants the criminal justice process to move with appropriate haste more than a victim. As for the “poorly defined definition of victim,” the definition is identical to the one we have in statute today that has worked well from many years.
The other major criticism seems to be based on other states’ experiences with crime victims’ rights constitutional amendments, which have also been called Marsy’s Law. This attack may bother me the most. I was one of the lead co-sponsors of Marsy’s Law both in 2017 when I served in Assembly and then again in 2019 in the Senate. We drafted Wisconsin-specific language with input of then Attorney General Brad Schimel, victim advocacy organizations, the Office of Crime Victim Services, district attorneys, victim witness coordinators, police officers, sheriffs and even defense attorneys were all at the table to develop the language with legislators. Sure, national experts on victims’ issues like the National Crime Victims Law Institute were also asked for advice, but this is uniquely Wisconsin language. Look up any of the other state’s Marsy’s Laws and you will see they are all different – including Ohio.
The proposed amendment has gone through a lengthy and rigorous vetting process in the Wisconsin legislature, where it was debated, amended, and passed through countess hours of public hearings, committee votes, and finally approved by the State Senate and Assembly not once, but twice—both times with just about every leading conservative in the Legislature voting yes.
Our hard work paid off with over 400 groups and criminal justice leaders endorsing Marsy’s Law – including every statewide law enforcement organization in Wisconsin.
Finally, I’ll leave you with this interesting tidbit. There once was a president who was very concerned about the treatment of crime victims in the criminal justice process. In fact, he was so concerned he establish a task force that recommended the U.S. Constitution be amended to give crime victims constitutional rights. That president’s name? Ronald Reagan.
Please vote yes on additional rights for crime victims when you mark you ballot this spring.
State Senator André Jacque