Referendum stock

Those filling out their absentee ballots for the April 7 Election may be caught by surprise that there is a statewide referendum in addition to a presidential primary and elections for local offices.

The question is "Shall section 9m of article I of the constitution, which gives certain rights to crime victims, be amended to give crime victims additional rights, to require that the rights of crime victims be protected with equal force to the protections afforded the accused while leaving the federal constitutional rights of the accused intact, and to allow crime victims to enforce their rights in court?"

The referendum question passed the Wisconsin Assembly 82-15 with just a brief statement of support from its lead sponsor Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville). That same day, Marsy’s Law passed the state Senate, 27-5.

According to Marsy's Law for Wisconsin: "Law for Wisconsin is a grassroots coalition that is advocating for a unique proposal to give victims of crime equal rights in our state Constitution, building on Wisconsin’s laws and history of leading on this issue."

But opponents say the referendum wording is vague and that there are already ample protections in place for victims. 

Among them is ACLU Wisconsin, which has stated:

"Our criminal justice system is based on the fundamental principle that before the government can take away your life or liberty, the government must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Until then, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But, whether intentional or not, Marsy’s Law would remove that presumption of innocence – tipping the scales of justice against the accused.

"This is a recipe for more wrongful convictions, more innocent people languishing behind bars, and more families needlessly torn apart by the criminal legal system.

"Forcing voters to choose between empathy for victims and protections for the accused is a false choice. We do not have to take away defendants’ rights or cause mass confusion in our justice system in order to protect victims’ rights. We can and should protect victims and defendants – both. The alternative is to jeopardize the integrity and fundamental fairness of our judicial system. 

Existing Wisconsin laws state that victims have the "right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect for privacy; a right to a timely disposition of criminal cases; a right to attend court proceedings unless court findings declare the victim's presence would preclude a fair trial; a right to be protected from the alleged criminal; a right to be notified of court proceedings; a right to confer with the prosecutor of the case; a right to speak at dispositions; a right to restitution and compensation; and a right to be informed of the outcome of the proceedings and the release of the alleged criminal."

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer."

Whereabouts of offenders can be tracked at https://www.vinelink.com.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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