Lacee Bjork Anderson: Port Is Wrong, Marsy’s Law Is Needed

It is unfortunate that, once again, Rob Port has chosen to advocate for weaker victims’ rights without having all the facts. In a recent blog post about a Grand Forks Herald article where a crime victim is requesting not to have to be deposed by the defense, Rob states that this case “illustrates why Marsy’s Law supporters have it all wrong.” On the contrary, it is actually a great example as to why Marsy’s Law for North Dakota is needed.

First and foremost, as an attorney I must refute Rob’s opinion on the Sixth Amendment. It is a fact that the Sixth Amendment does not include a right to pre-trial depositions. Numerous examples of case law support this without question.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Under this amendment, crime victims’ rights will be elevated to an equal legal level as the rights of the accused. Crime victims will be guaranteed the right to be heard, to be notified, to receive restitution, and to be protected from harassment throughout the criminal justice process.[/mks_pullquote]

Secondly, with respect to existing protections, North Dakota is one of the most liberal states in the nation when it comes to our pre-trial criminal discovery rules. In the case recently detailed in the Herald, the crime victim is refusing a deposition by the defense under North Dakota’s Child Victim and Witness Fair Treatment Standards law that says in part, “The prosecuting attorney, the court, and appropriate law enforcement personnel, to the extent possible, shall protect the victim or witness from the psychological damage of repeated or lengthy interview, testimony, or discovery proceedings while preserving the rights of the public, the victim, and the person charged with the violation.” Unfortunately, crime victims over the age of 18 do not have the same protections and can be subjected to lengthy interviews where the point is often to “break” the victim, not just simply obtain information.

Marsy’s Law for North Dakota, which qualified as Measure 3 on the November ballot with more than 30,000 signatures, will address this flaw. Under this amendment, crime victims’ rights will be elevated to an equal legal level as the rights of the accused. Crime victims will be guaranteed the right to be heard, to be notified, to receive restitution, and to be protected from harassment throughout the criminal justice process.

Accused and convicted criminals will maintain all existing rights, including the right to confront their accuser during trial. Defendants will have access to discovery from the police or the prosecution, just as they do now, and limited waivers will still apply to medical records making them accessible. Measure 3 does absolutely nothing to change that.

Crime victims deserve to be treated just as fairly as the accused. They deserve to be on a level playing field, not relegated to a lesser legal position. The reason we have criminal court cases in the first place is because someone was harmed – physically, sexually, financially. North Dakota’s statutory laws for crime victims do not and cannot give equal protection to the constitutional rights afforded to the accused.

Measure 3 is an important opportunity for the people of our state to stand up for those harmed by crime, giving them the equal rights and protections they deserve. More than 30 other states already provide similar constitutional protections. North Dakota crime victims do not deserve to be left behind any longer.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

Related posts

Top