Democrats value the rights of victims. We believe victims deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity and fairness, just as Marsy’s Law proposes. While Marsy’s Law has good intentions that we encourage, we cannot offer our full support of this Legislation.
Marsy’s Law stems from California and is named after Marsalee Nicholas who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. After her family was unexpectedly confronted by the accused murderer at the grocery store, they called for victims rights advocacy. Fortunately, Wisconsin has already been a champion in victims’ rights protections. With a victim bill of rights and a constitutional amendment on victim privacy, we’ve made steps in the right direction. Marsy’s Law aims to “strengthen rights that already exist in Wisconsin,” however, it doesn’t offer substantial changes for victims.
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College Democrats recognize the importance of protecting the rights of both the victims and the accused. One flaw of Marsy’s Law is that it inaccurately represents the criminal proceedings process. In these trials, the accused’s rights are meant to protect them from the government, not the victim. Their goal of “simply putting victims on more equal footing” is creating false equivalencies. To chance infringement on the constitutional rights of the accused is incredibly dangerous. The Marsy’s Law provision on refusing to turn over evidence risks violating the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and its other details could deny the protections promised in the fifth and fourteenth amendments. As it stands, the text of Marsy’s Law does not provide adequate protection against these infringements.
But we cannot allow divisive rhetoric to create a false dichotomy where we cannot support both victims and the rights of the accused. Our criminal proceedings, albeit flawed, exist to ensure the innocent aren’t incarcerated and the true perpetrators roam free, risking harm to others.
Democrats are more than willing to work across the aisle to help support victims. While we cannot fully support Marsy’s Law, there are still other measures we can adopt to support victims’ rights.
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We can significantly reduce rates of gun violence and domestic homicide between intimate partners. In 2017, 62 percent of domestic homicide victims were killed with a firearm. By disarming domestic abusers, we can measurably help protect victims.
Fighting mass incarceration is another key issue for Democrats. The U.S. has the highest prison population rate in the world. Through criminal justice system reforms, we can ensure resources are being better allocated to help victims.
Current flaws allow victims to become incarcerated. Domestic and sexual violence cases don’t always clearly identify the perpetrators. As a result, victims are often arrested and prosecuted. Women comprise a larger proportion of the prison population now more than ever before and most of these women are victims of domestic violence.
Additionally, we support offering mental health services to victims. The emotional and mental well-being of victims is important to us, and it’s critical that we offer resources to help victims. By addressing mental health, we can make a significant, long term impact on victims’ lives.
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Marsy’s Law may appear admirable on the surface, the bill does not offer substantial measures to truly protect victims. College Democrats support victims, which is why we can and must do better for them.
Since the bill was unable to pass through session in time to make this April’s ballot, we now have time to address these concerns before proceeding. Now is the time to make adjustments and put forth better proposals for the sake of Wisconsin’s victims.
Working across the aisle requires the work of both parties, and College Democrats recognize the importance of doing so when faced with a divided government. We look forward to the upcoming legislative session and we hope to find issues on which both parties can agree.
Cecelia McDermott ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and geography. She is also the press secretary of the College Democrats of UW-Madison.