Floridians could soon vote on a proposal to grant victims more rights during court proceedings. That matter will first go before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission—which meets every 20 years to revise the state’s constitution. Voters would later have their say on the 2018 ballot.
For Michael Liles, it’s been hard on him and his family, since his wife was killed earlier this year.
“This was my bride of 41 years at that time,” said Liles. “Our 42nd anniversary came and I got to spend that anniversary in a hearing room, looking at the guy who thought my wife’s life was unimportant.”
Liles says because the suspect in his wife’s murder was informed of his rights, he kept on delaying the proceedings—at least 10 different times. But, for the victim’s families, like Liles, they were unaware of what they could do on their end.
Now, Liles leads the Justice Coalition, which supports expanding victims’ rights also known as Marsy’s Law.
University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell also supports the effort. His career included stints as a federal judge and prosecutor. He says Marsy’s Law would put victims of crimes on the same footing of the accused and convicted.
“You know, what’s interesting is people sometimes ask, ‘what do crime victims want?’ And, I think it’s ironic, but it’s true. They just want to be treated like criminals. They just want the same list of rights that criminal defendants have when they go through the process. They want the right to due process, the right to be heard. They want the right to put information in front of a judge. They don’t want to veto decisions a judge has made. They want a voice in the process. And, so, Marsy’s Law would provide a comprehensive list of rights to ensure that crime victims in Florida receive all of the protections that they should have.”
Another provision in Marsy’s Law would provide victims and their families is a right to be notified of a court hearing.
“You know many defendants, they get a card, or get the police officer to explain what their rights are when they’re arrested. What Marsy’s Law would do is it would say when a police officer goes to crime victim’s home after the crime that they would get information about what their rights are and what the next steps are in the process, who they can call if they have questions. How many are wondering, ‘why don’t we already do this?’ And, I think that’s a question that the voters of this state have as well.”
Marsy’s Law has been adopted in six other states. Last month, 83 percent of voters in Ohio also voted for that proposal.
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