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Against Marsy's Law: Creating problems; solving none

March 13. 2018 11:55PM

When the New Hampshire Supreme Court struck down a piece of New Hampshire’s rape shield law, we urged the Legislature to restore it, ensuring that rapists would not be able to leverage the past sexual history of their victims as a means to silence them.

We stand in strong support of crime victims. Protecting the rights of victims does not require writing a poorly-worded amendment into the New Hampshire Constitution.

CACR 22, labeled “Marsy’s Law” by supporters, is part of a nationwide push to incorporate victims’ rights amendments in state constitutions. It would enshrine a right “to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy.”

That sounds wonderful, but the implications for due process and the rights of the accused are staggering. It could potentially leave the public in the dark about crimes committed in their backyards.

CACR 22 also contains a long list of specific procedural protections, many of which already exist in New Hampshire statute. Crime victims would be able to refuse to be deposed or to comply with discovery requests. This directly conflicts with the Sixth Amendment protections of the U.S. Constitution.

If reforms to victims’ rights are needed, the Legislature should address the issue in statute, not the Constitution.

We all support victims. No lawmaker would want to appear to oppose victims’ rights. But it is the duty of the Legislature to look beyond the cosmetic appeal of Marsy’s Law and examine the many problems at its core.

We hope lawmakers have the courage to stand up for the legal safeguards built into the U.S. and New Hampshire Constitutions and reject CACR 22.

Crime, law and justice State Government Editorial

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