Constitution Revision Commission Workshop for Victims’ Rights

Last week, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) Declaration of Rights committee conducted a workshop on victims’ rights. Committee members had an opportunity to learn more about what rights victims currently do and don’t have in Florida, and hear testimony from legal experts who are in favor of better protections for victims and their families. They also learned about Marsy’s Law for Florida, which would create a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights in the state constitution.

Former federal judge and former federal prosecutor, Paul Cassell, a University of Utah Law professor and Marsy’s Law advocate, joined us to share his perspective on the implementation of Marsy’s Law in other states:

“The real-world experience with Marsy’s Law shows what an important difference it can make for crime victims. California passed its version in 2008 and many victims and criminal justice professionals have reported a dramatic improvement in the way victims are treated. Contrary to the predictions of critics, fiscal impacts have been minimal to non-existent with extending right to victims in the criminal justice process. Florida can expect significant improvements in its treatment of victims if it adopts a similar measure.”

Immediately following the CRC hearing, CRC members, victims, and victim advocates gathered at a press conference to support Marsy’s Law for Florida.

CRC Commissioner Timothy Cerio, who has submitted Marsy’s Law for Florida, via Proposal 96 – to the CRC for their consideration, stood among supporters and called for equal rights and protections for Florida victims and their families. Standing before members of the press who’d gathered for the occasion, Cerio stated:

“The United States Constitution enumerates 20 distinct rights that are afforded to those accused or convicted of crimes. The victims themselves, family members they leave behind when a tragic loss occurs have absolutely no rights in our great document. Think about that for a minute. Those accused or convicted have 20 different rights, but the victims and their families, thrust into the criminal justice system by the acts of others, have none.”

We had great media turnout for the press conference. We secured positive news coverage of Marsy’s Law for Florida, which will enable us to keep educating people about the need for clear, enforceable victims’ rights spelled out in our state constitution. It was also an opportunity for victims and their families to have their voice finally heard. People like Michael Liles whose wife was murdered earlier this year. Said Liles:

“I had to sit quietly the other day, I’d say about eight weeks ago, and listen to them assign the next hearing on August 22nd, which was to have been my 42nd wedding anniversary. I would have preferred to not have a hearing or have to see the monster that murdered my wife on the day that I should have been celebrating my 42nd anniversary and I didn’t have a way to know how to stop that from happening.”

We greatly appreciate everyone’s support last week – especially those who traveled to Tallahassee to be here on such an important day for Marsy’s Law for Florida. And, thank you for continuing to tell your stories and sharing with others how Marsy’s Law for Florida will help make sure the scales of justice are balanced for Florida victims and their families.