Ohio crime victims’ rights issue could face court challenge

(WDTN Photo/Paul Rodzinka)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union was weighing a legal challenge to the crime victim rights amendment a day after it was overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters.

Issue 1, dubbed Marsy’s Law, amends the Ohio Constitution to give crime victims and their families the same rights as the accused, including notice of court proceedings, input on plea deals and the opportunity to tell their stories.

READ MORE: Ohio voters send clear messages; Yes on 1, No on 2

It swept to victory in all 88 counties Tuesday, receiving nearly 83 percent support statewide after an $8 million-plus campaign featuring “Frasier” actor Kelsey Grammer and no organized opposition.

A second ballot issue aimed at curbing skyrocketing drug costs lost in a landslide with nearly 80 percent opposition.

ACLU of Ohio spokesman Mike Brickner said the organization is watching to see how Marsy’s Law is implemented across Ohio.

The organization is concerned that, in its effort to protect victims, it may erode the rights of the accused — who face a loss of their liberty through the justice system, he said.

“The concern here is to assure that before they put someone in jail or prison, or put them on community control, that we have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they actually are guilty,” he said. “That’s why we have this system of due process and speedy and fair trials, and, unfortunately, Marsy’s Law may hinder that.”

The measure is part of a multi-state campaign championed by California billionaire Henry Nicholas, whose sister was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. The accused was released on bail a week after her murder without her family being told.

Previous states to pass the measure are South Dakota, North Dakota, California, Illinois and Montana.

The House Speaker in South Dakota is pushing to give voters a chance to scrap the amendment in that state, pointing to unintended consequences including diminished access to vehicle crash reports. In Montana, the high court ruled a Marsy’s Law amendment unconstitutional last week following a legal challenge by the ACLU and others.

However, in striking it down, Montana justices made clear their decision was based on how the multi-pronged law was presented to voters, not the merits of the changes themselves. The bipartisan Ohio Ballot Board declared the Ohio amendment a single subject before allowing it to move forward.

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