As a former Cass County prosecutor, I am frequently asked how I’m voting on Constitutional Measure 3 (Marcy’s Law).
I will be voting no for a very specific reason and I am urging all North Dakotans to vote no as well.
By now, you’ve heard all of the arguments both pro and con. What you haven’t really heard though are actual examples of how Marcy’s Law would impact prosecutions.
Back in 2000, I prosecuted Brian Sternberg for numerous crimes against children. Among other horrific offenses, he continuously sexually abused a child and forced another to eat their own feces as punishment. Not surprisingly, the media in Fargo followed this case very closely and had even filed to allow cameras in the courtroom.
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Had Marsy’s law been in place in 2000, those pre-trial depositions would not have been allowed to happen and the children would have had to endure the unnecessary trauma of a jury trial…[/mks_pullquote]
During the entire time leading up to trial, Mr. Sternberg refused to accept any responsibility for what he had done. It looked like a given that there would be a jury trial and that the children who were as young as six would have to testify in open court. Prior to trial, however, the defense took the depositions of the children to determine what they would be like in front of a jury.
All of the children were incredibly strong and explained in gruesome detail what Mr. Sternberg had done to them. As a direct result of those pre-trial depositions, Mr. Sternberg knew he had no way out but to plead guilty and hope for mercy from the court.
That did not happen and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Had Marsy’s law been in place in 2000, those pre-trial depositions would not have been allowed to happen and the children would have had to endure the unnecessary trauma of a jury trial and reliving the horror of what Mr. Sternberg had done to them in a courtroom full of strangers.
The bottom line is that while this law has good intentions, the reality it will produce is something we should not accept.
Please vote no on measure 3.