Meg Morley: ‘Hell No’ to Marsy’s Law

I write this to join with other legal professionals who have spoken out in opposition of “Marsy’s Law”, which has made it on the North Dakota 2016 ballot as Measure #3.

I have already voted this election and as I was filling in the ovals I found myself wishing there was a “Hell, No!” option instead of just “No.” on Measure 3. A simple “No” simply did not seem strong enough.

I realize not everyone has cast their votes yet for this election. I also realize that many citizens are reluctant to make the effort to vote this election due to a shortage of appealing candidates on both sides of the political spectrum. I, too, toyed with the idea of becoming the type of person that I hate. Apathetic, uninvolved, and foolishly thinking that by not voting I was hurting anyone other than myself. I’m glad I slapped myself out of that mindset.

The most important vote I cast this election was the “HELL, NO!” that I cast on Measure #3 (“Marsy’s Law”). I urge all citizens of North Dakota to also vote no on this unnecessary law.

I get the appeal of “Marsy’s Law.” At first blush, the proposed law seems like a no-brainer. What could possibly be wrong with a law claiming to protect victims of violent crimes? Well, quite a lot, actually.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]What could possibly be wrong with a law claiming to protect victims of violent crimes? Well, quite a lot, actually.[/mks_pullquote]

North Dakota has been advocating for the rights of victims by helping shape public policy since the late 1970’s. In 1987, under the leadership of CAWS North Dakota, North Dakota joined other states in passing 21 bills that created broad protections for all victims of crime often referred to as the victim’s “fair treatment standards”. (NDCC 12.1-34). Under this statute victims and witnesses are afforded 18 rights including the right to be notified of the status of the investigation and whether criminal charges have been filed, to be notified of pre-trial release, to be present and participate in court proceedings, to be informed of services available, to be protected from the release of any identifying information, and the right to submit a victim impact statement.

Constitutional measures, although well intentioned are often not clearly defined until litigation (case law), making it difficult to modify or implement. For example, such possible litigation over defining who is a victim may create disadvantages because it could limit or frustrate successful resolution to victims of crime.

Victims have multi-faceted needs and a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work as proposed under the constitutional provisions outlined in Marsy’s Law. This pre-packaged constitutional amendment is not geared towards what’s best for victims in North Dakota. Victim service providers and their partners are well positioned to work together to create policies, language and implementation strategies tailored to the needs of victims in our state.

I also can’t back a proposed law that is based upon fear mongering and the attempt to spin straw into gold, for a tidy little profit. Against Marsy’s Law? You hate women. You love rapists. You don’t care about North Dakota. You have a soft spot in your heart for murderers. You also at some point in your life have probably stabbed a baby bunny, because well, you’re opposed to helping the innocent among us.

Messages like this are dangerous and perpetuate the stereotype that all victims are women. At a time that our country is experiencing an extremely high rate of instances of violence, doesn’t it make sense for us to do work that will help eliminate the stigma surrounding men who come forward to report that they have been victimized? The irony that Mrs. Kathleen Wrigley, spokeswoman for “Marsy’s Law” is advocating for this law on behalf of her brother, who was tragically killed in the line of duty as a police officer; while simultaneously pitching that only females are victims, is not lost on me. Nor should it be lost on you.

Let the good work of our elected officials continue. Let the laws continue to evolve as the needs of our state evolve. Let’s not pigeonhole victims. Let’s not allow out-of-state billionaires tell the citizens of North Dakota what or how to think. Stand up, read up, and show up to vote “HELL, NO!” on Measure #3 (“Marsy’s Law”).

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.

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