Constitutional Amendment For Victims’ Rights Passes Senate and House Committees
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT FOR VICTIMS’ RIGHTS PASSES SENATE AND HOUSE COMMITTEES
Crime Victims Share Stories of a Failed System and Need for Equal Rights
HONOLULU — The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor today passed an amended version of Senate Bill 3034, which would amend the Hawaii State Constitution to guarantee specific rights to victims of crime. A similar measure (House Bill 1144 HD1) was heard in the House Committee on Judiciary yesterday and passed with amendments.
Both Judiciary committees, which yesterday took up the measure known as Marsy’s Law, once again heard overwhelming support from victims and their family members, organizations standing up for victims’ rights, and individuals supporting protections for violent crime victims. Present at both hearings was national victims’ rights expert, Meg Garvin, to provide information on constitutional law and share insight into how other states have enacted a constitutional amendment without any negative impact on the court system.
“The criminal justice system functions best when those directly impacted — both victims and defendants — have their voices meaningfully integrated such that they can perceive the process as fair and transparent,” Garvin testified. “With regard to victims, research makes clear that when the system operates otherwise victims may endure harm beyond the original crime; harm which is referred to as ‘secondary victimization’ and which is recognized to have significant negative impacts on victims as well as on the proper functioning of justice system.”
The Hawaii measure is modeled on victims’ rights constitutional amendments recently adopted in Illinois and now under way in six other states. Hawaii is one of only 18 states without constitutional protections for crime victims.
“We understand how serious constitutional amendments are and have been working closely with legislators on making sure the language is just right,” said Marsy’s Law for Hawaii State Director Stacy Evensen. “Over the course of this session, we are hopeful legislators who hear these horrible stories of injustice from victims will understand the importance of elevating crime victims’ rights to the same constitutional level as that of the accused.”
Other testifiers supporting a better balance between the rights of crime victims and the rights of offenders included Nicholas Iwamoto, who was stabbed in the head six times atop Koko Head on Super Bowl Sunday in 2009.
“The deference shown to my assailant and other violent criminals is absolutely despicable. It seems that the constitutional rights of violent felons are more important than public safety,” testified Iwamoto, who had broke his neck, fractured his skill and had his lungs destroyed when he was dumped off the cliff. “Marsy’s Law is the best chance to give victims justice and compassion in a seemingly hopeless situation. It will give us a voice in the courts. It will keep us in the loop. All we ask for is the same rights afforded to violent offenders who have done such deplorable things to us and our families.”
Kimberlyn Scott, the mother of a pregnant woman who went missing on Maui two years ago today, shared with the committee on how her daughter Charli was stabbed repeatedly and whose body was dismembered. She said she has been seen as a “pest” as she had tried to gain access to knowledge that should have been afforded her in the victims’ statute.
“If Marsy’s Law was encoded in our Constitution, we would have been notified of all the hearings in a timely manner and afforded time to prepare to be near the person we believe murdered my child,” Scott testified. “This was not our experience. We have been given as little as 40 minutes notice and at times, none at all.”
The Constitutional Amendment for Victims’ Rights (Marsy’s Law), if adopted, would guarantee the following basic rights to crime victims:
- The right to be treated with courtesy, fairness, with respect for their dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice proceedings;
- The right to receive information about their rights and services available to crime victims;
- The right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in their criminal case;
- The right to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status;
- The right to be present at court proceedings;
- The right to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized;
- The right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release;
- The right to restitution.
About Marsy’s Law for All
Marsy’s Law for All is dedicated to ensuring that crime victims’ rights are codified in law throughout the United States. When it passed in California in November 2008, Proposition 9, The Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law, became the strongest and most comprehensive constitutional victims’ rights law in the U.S. and put California at the forefront of the national victims’ rights movement. Marsy’s Law was also passed in Illinois in 2014.
For more information, visit www.marsyslawforhawaii.org.