Ohio’s top attorney backs Issue 1, Marsy’s Law, claims it has teeth

Ohio Statehouse (file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Issue one on the ballot in November, also known as Marsy’s Law, picked up a high profile supporter Friday.

Ohio State Attorney General Mike DeWine was announced as a co-chair of the campaign.

DeWine says, he will have no direct involvement with the operations or strategy of the campaign, but will lend his name to it and support it publicly.

According to DeWine, significant advancement of victim’s rights has been made over the past several decades but more needs to be done.

In 1994, Ohio voters passed Amendment 2, then known as the Victim’s Rights Amendment, overwhelmingly.

It granted many rights to victims enshrining them into Ohio’s constitution.

But some of those rights are being overlooked or ignored by prosecutors and the court, according to victim’s rights advocates.

That is why they want Marsy’s Law passed.

“When you tell a judge, when you tell a prosecutor, when you tell everybody involved in the criminal justice system; these are basic rights that are part of the constitution, people will take it very, very seriously,” said DeWine.

But here’s the catch-22; if that were the case, and prosecutors and the court were taking the rights seriously, there would be no need for the majority of Marsy’s Law.

Almost all of the rights laid out in Issue 1 already exist in the state constitution.

All it really adds are less than a handful of new rights.

One of those rights gives teeth to the enforcement of them all, according to DeWine, by allowing the victim to take their grievance of having their rights violated to the appeals court.

This is something victims expressly cannot do under Amendment 2.

However, there is no specific relief outlined by Issue 1, other than a hearing before an appeals judge.

The best they could hope for is the appeals court issues a strongly worded admonishment to the prosecutor, or lower court, for failing to uphold the victim’s rights.

With no significant penalty attached to the admonishment, the teeth are as sharp as molars, and it will functionally add to the case load of the appeals court.

Beyond that, DeWine also concedes, “many counties do all these things, some counties don’t,” which backs up his earlier claim that; if these rights are constitutionally protected people will take them seriously.

If the majority of counties are already following victim’s rights as they are currently outlined in the state constitution and the problem is enforcement, one has to wonder if enforcement should be the focus.

Keep in mind Marsy’s Law also seeks to add other rights to the constitution that aren’t currently there.

One of them would allow a victim to refuse to provide potential evidence, and another grants them restitution rights.

Proponents of Issue 1 say it has it has the support of 20 county sheriffs, 15 police chiefs, and 9 county prosecutors.

There are many more individuals in each of those categories that have yet to announce their support behind the bill.

Washington County Prosecutor Kevin Rings has come out against the bill, as has the State Public Defender Timothy Young.

Concerns that the law could have unintended consequences stem from what is happening in other states that have recently passed Marsy’s Laws, like North Dakota.

There bond hearings are taking longer because victims are exercising their new right to testify at any hearing.

As a result the bond hearings, which are normally routine and quick, are requiring more time to schedule which is in turn backing up other cases.

 

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