- Associated Press - Friday, March 10, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Lawmakers on Friday approved advancing a proposed amendment to Idaho’s constitution that would give crime victims and their families the same rights as those charged with the crime.

The proposal struck an emotional chord among legislative leaders on the Senate State Affairs Committee who sent it to the Senate floor after a teary two-hour committee hearing.

Victims of crimes and other advocates urged lawmakers to overhaul the Victim Rights Amendment, which was ratified in 1994. The amendment details rights for victims. However, advocates of the change say it doesn’t do enough and need to be updated.

The proposed amendment would require that victims be notified of all court proceedings and be heard at each step along the way. It also would declare that full and timely restitution is a right.

“I know the heartache, I get it,” Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said before casting his vote in favor of the proposal. “I think everybody on this committee has experienced serious, personal loss.”

In early 2003, Davis and his wife, Marion, buried their 23-year-old son after he was shot and killed at a Boise keg party.

Davis told the audience about attending a parole hearing for the man who killed their son and the roller coaster experience of dealing with grief and loss in the years since.

The amendment, dubbed Marsy’s Law for Idaho, is named for a California woman killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend after he was released from jail without her being notified.

Her brother, Henry Nicholas, has bankrolled the effort to expand it to more states. Illinois, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota have since adopted similar amendments

Davis said he initially opposed the proposed measure - believing the current system wasn’t flawed due to his own personal experience - but changed his mind after meeting with victims’ rights groups.

“This isn’t a perfect bill, but I haven’t voted on a perfect bill since being here,” Davis said, noting it will likely undergo further changes in the years ahead.

Opponents of the bill warned that it could increase workloads and create a financial burden on already cash-strapped criminal justice system.

“We know that Idaho has a problem protecting the constitutional rights of defendants,” said Kathy Griesmyer of the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, the only organization to testify against the amendment. “We believe this is going to create some significant problems in the system.”

For example, commissioners might be more apt to deny parole to prisoners if the victim’s involvement is expanded rather than look at evidence on rehabilitation.

The amendment also requires victims to have access to legal services to ensure their rights are being enforced, but the proposal does not include any funding to do go.

The ACLU also raised objections to including entities such as businesses as victims.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide