May 8, 2019 1:26PM

New Rights For Crime Victims? The Trouble With “Marsy’s Law”

Advocates have successfully pushed in several states for the passage of state constitutional amendments promoted as a bill of rights for crime victims, under the banner of “Marsy’s Law.” I’ve got a new piece at Real Clear Policy pointing out some of the problems with that:

For example: In the name of protecting their privacy, and especially shielding them from fear of possible intimidation, the measures restrict dissemination of personal information about crime victims. While the impulse involved is understandable, and there have long been legitimate ways of accommodating it, it is also essential that accused persons have access to evidence they need to prepare the case in their defense.…

Meanwhile, the laws can deprive the public of information about crime that is legitimately important to them, as when, for example, a murder occurs in their neighborhood. …

Underlying several of these problems is a point made by [one commentator]: “In many cases whether the accuser is a ‘victim’ is only decided after a trial.” To be accorded rights before that point may presume the outcome, and can also give a complainant or accuser valuable leverage.

Consider, for example, the phenomenon by which cops have employed the laws to conceal their identities from the public after shooting civilians who were then charged with having assaulted the officer [as discussed by] my Cato colleague Jonathan Blanks in a recent Cato Daily Podcast. … Blanks “notes that police officers wear their names on their uniform and act in the name of the public in public. ‘That information, by nature, must be public’.”

Whole thing here, including a mention of Cato scholar Roger Pilon’s testimony against a similar constitutional proposal more than two decades ago. And much more at Overlawyered on how, to quote Radley Balko, “Laws named after crime victims and dead people are usually a bad idea.”