The constitutional hot potato that is Marsy’s law could be directed directly to the state Supreme Court.
The Marsy Law is an amendment to the state constitution that voters approved in April 2020. It aimed to expand and strengthen the rights of victims of crime, which were already recognized in the state constitution.
A Dane County judge then agreed with the challengers that the wording in the referendum on the statewide amendment was unclear and legally insufficient, and that the amendment also limited the rights of defendants. The judge overturned the law, but stayed his decision, pending appeal from the Wisconsin Election Commission, Secretary of State and Attorney General.
Just before Christmas, the District III Court of Appeal ruled that it made more sense for the matter to go directly to the Supreme Court and certified the case to the high court, which has yet to say that she would accept the fast-track approach.
How issues are resolved “will have a tremendous effect on our criminal justice institutions and on those who operate in them,” the Court of Appeal wrote, and a final and timely decision would therefore be in everyone’s interest.
He suggested that if the Supreme Court agreed that the wording of the ballot initiative was flawed, it would give the legislature more time to draft and propose a new referendum on the ballot.
The Wisconsin Justice Initiative attempted to have the question removed from the ballot before the April 2020 vote and also filed a lawsuit after it was passed.
WJI President Craig Johnson applauded the request for certification. “This is an example of good intentions causing unintentional chaos in our justice system,” he said.
“Marsy’s law has confused courts, prosecutors and the general public as to when and how it applies and what” rights it confers. It risks negatively affecting the constitutional rights of the accused in a way that initial supporters always denied was their intention. ”
Noted criminal defense attorney Jerome Buting, another plaintiff in the challenge, called the wording of the ballot question a “sleight of hand” and expects the Supreme Court to overturn the current amendment. .
“This is a victory for the voters of Wisconsin and teaches the legislature a lesson not to play with our state’s constitution by deceiving the voters,” said Buting.
Marsy’s Law spokesperson Myranda Tanck said supporters of Wisconsin’s public radio expect the amendment, approved by a 3-to-1 margin by voters, to stand.
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In 1980, Wisconsin became the first state in the country to pass a “Victims of Crime Bill of Rights” and, in 1993, passed a constitutional amendment to protect the privacy of victims and ensure that they are kept informed of their cases.
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. He confronted his family a week after his death, when the family was unaware he had been released on bail. His billionaire brother began to expand victims’ rights, which became the national Marsy’s law movement.
Here is the question that appeared on the ballots:
“Additional rights of victims of crime. Will article 9m of article I of the constitution, which gives certain rights to victims of crime, be amended to give victims of crime additional rights, to require that the rights of victims of crime be amended? ‘criminal acts are protected with the same force as the protections afforded to the accused while leaving the constitutional rights of the accused intact and allowing victims of crime to assert their rights in court? ”
The Dane County judge ruled that the wording did not address “all the essentials” of the amendment, was misleading and should have been presented in the form of multiple questions. The line, “while leaving the federal constitutional rights of the accused intact,” implies that the state’s constitutional rights and statutory protections of the accused could be overridden by a victim’s concerns, according to critics of the accused. the law.
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