The Importance of Marsy's Law in Ohio
Sherri Bevan Walsh was elected Summit County Prosecutor in 2000 and has been recognized on both the state and national levels for her outstanding leadership. She was honored as Public Official of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers for her commitment to crime victims, named Prosecutor of the Year by the Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for her aggressive prosecution of criminals, and was named 2019 Victim Right’s Champion by Marsy’s Law for Ohio. Prosecutor Walsh has been recognized with more than 55 awards, including the 2016 Model of Justice by the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center. Prosecutor Walsh’s goal is to aggressively prosecute criminals and ensure that victims receive support and assistance throughout the criminal justice proceedings. Throughout her 30 year career as an attorney in Summit County, Ms. Walsh has fought for the rights of victims and their families. As Summit County Prosecutor, Ms. Walsh started the office’s first full-time Victim Services Division. In 2013, Prosecutor Walsh was the first Prosecutor in Ohio to have a facility dog program to assist crime victims, especially children. Avery, the Prosecutor’s Office Facility Dog, has comforted over 230 victims and assisted nearly 40 victims as they testified in court. Here she discusses the importance of having Marsy's Law in Ohio.
Through your experiences working with victims/survivors, how do you believe Marsy’s Law for Ohio will help current victims and survivors of crime?
Receiving up to date information as well as being kept informed is critical to minimizing the trauma that victims/survivors often experience as they navigate through the justice system. Being included in the judicial process helps a victim/survivor to feel empowered and restores balance in their lives.
In discussing the criminal justice system with victims and survivors of crime, what have you found to be common themes/frustrations for those navigating the system?
Survivors want to be included in the process and informed about what is happening in their case. Survivors want to be listened to and have access to the prosecutor assigned to the case. We strive to give victims a voice and help to prevent re-victimization by the criminal justice system.
Which component of Marsy’s Law for Ohio stands out most to you and why?
Victims’ rights are now part of Ohio’s constitution and must be “protected in a manner no less vigorous than the rights afforded to the accused.” This is so important. There is always a focus on protecting defendants’ rights; this is highlighted in every courtroom, every day. We also need to focus on victims’ rights, equally. Prosecutors are authorized to act at the victim’s request to assert their rights (right to be present in the courtroom, to object to unreasonable delay or to protect a victims’ right to privacy).
Why are constitutional rights necessary as opposed to current statutes dedicated to crime victims’ rights?
While Ohio affords victims a myriad of rights by statute, there were still improvements that needed to be made. It is important for victims to have rights but it is also equally important for victims to have remedies when their rights are not being upheld. Marsy’s Law guarantees those rights. In cases where victims’ rights are violated there are remedies. Marsy’s Law strengthens victims’ rights by providing constitutional protections to crime victims.