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Victim's Rights Constitutional Amendment Passes By Landslide

Nov 8, 2017

Marsy’s law supporter Cathy Harper Lee and victims of crime celebrate the passage of Marsy’s Law on Election Night 2017
Credit Jo Ingles / Statehouse News Bureau

Issue 1, the constitutional amendment that gives crime victims legal standing, was overwhelming approved by Ohio voters at the ballot box. 

Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports.  

Dr. Henry Nicholas financed most of the Ohio campaign to pass Issue 1, known as Marsy’s Law. It’s named for his sister, who was killed by her boyfriend in 1983. Nicholas flew in from California to be with supporters of Marsy’s Law as the results came in on Election Night. And he seemed surprised at its overwhelming passage.

“Holy crap, we did it. (laughter from crowd) What a win!”

Cathy Harper Lee, executive director of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, was also surprised by the huge support for the issue.

“So many of us survivors and advocates have survived on faith and hope. Faith that our experiences and struggles would not be in vain and hope that other crime victims would not have faced the same injustices that we have faced and hope that one day, we would have a criminal justice system that was truly fair and balanced. And that day has come and that day has come big.”

Ohio now becomes the sixth state to adopt Marsy’s Law. California was the first. Orange County California District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says it’s worked well there.

“Everybody has to recognize that they have rights, that the victims of crime have standing, and that the victim’s interests are going to be prominent in court so nobody talks about a case without talking about restitution, nobody talks about a case without talking about how much damage there was to a victim, and justice to the victims and it just makes a huge difference.”

But that difference is what the ACLU of Ohio”s Gary Daniels worries about. Opponents who had spoken out against the issue said most of the rights in this amendment were already in state law. And they were particularly concerned giving victims legal standing in criminal cases. And Daniels says he’s also worried about the provision that makes it harder for the accused to get evidence from crime victims through the legal process known as discovery.

“Being able to shut down discovery, that is the person who has been merely accused of a crime to find out information that takes place in the usual give and take of these types of cases and when you have one side completely shut down now, that is going to have some impact on that person’s constitutional rights.”

Daniels says he understands the cause behind this issue is popular and difficult to argue against.

“You know it’s hard to overcome that basic message of victims’ rights but here, where you are going to have a lot of vague language, a lot of broad language, and I think much of the legal profession, the courts, the prosecutors, the defense attorneys are going to be left wondering the exact ramifications of this.”

Daniels says he expects there will be litigation in the future somewhere that will question the new amendment in court if it plays out the way he thinks it might.