OPINION: Marsy’s Law ‘Rule of Emotion, Not Rule of Law’

On the ballot this November will be six proposed constitutional amendments for the people of North Carolina to approve, or reject. One of those amendments is ‘Marsy’s Law,’ which would enshrine a Victims’ Bill of Rights into the Old North State’s governing document. State Republican lawmakers proposed the amendment, and Democratic leaders have opposed it, along with the other five proposals, in their #Nixallsix campaign.

Beyond the partisan positions are much more nuanced and considered perspectives on Marsy’s Law becoming part of the N.C. Constitution. One such perspective comes from Patrick Petsche, a former Republican primary candidate for the N.C. House and a consummate defender of liberty as outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Patrick outlines below his concerns with Marsy’s Law achieving official constitutional amendment status, providing a fresh perspective we’ve not yet seen on the proposal.

The recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings brought to the forefront American justice traditions, such as the assumption of innocence and rights of the accused. The burden of proof is always on the accuser who cannot remain anonymous, and the accused has the right to face them in court and prepare a defense against the allegations. In North Carolina, we are having a similar conversation relevant to an important state constitutional amendment on the ballot in November: Marsy’s Law.

One of the six proposed state constitutional amendments is one most North Carolinians are not fully familiar with, yet is so important. This amendment would permanently engrave Marsy’s Law into the state constitution. What is Marsy’s Law? Marsy’s Law was passed in 2008 in California as Proposition 9 titled “The Victims’ Bill of Rights Act.” Just as the accused must be read their Miranda Rights, the victims must be read their Marsy’s Rights. This allows the victim to be heard at every step in legal criminal proceedings, be the first witness to testify so they may be present in the courtroom for the entire proceeding, and victims would have the right to legal counsel instead of relying on the prosecutor. The main impact of Marsy’s Law would dramatically increase the length of time between criminal parole hearings, and deeply restrict early release. The victim would also have a chance to speak at the parole hearing, and their testimony would be taken into consideration. In California since 2009, the length between parole hearings doubled. The defense of this was the safety of the victim and prevention of a personal vendetta on behalf of the guilty once released. Rather than taking this into account at sentencing, we would be nullifying our parole process, which is meant to determine whether a convict has reformed their ways, not re-prosecute their case. We would be turning our back on criminal justice reforms.

We all care for victims, their safety, legal protections, and right to justice and restitution. In North Carolina, we already adopted a Victims’ Bill of Rights, and we include protections for victims in state law. This amendment would expand victims’ rights to a point where the defendant’s rights are undermined, and include the victim being heard directly in the criminal proceedings, restrict early release of inmates, and greatly change parole procedures that would reduce the chance a reformed convict can return to society because of the re-litigating testimony victims can bring to the hearing. Marsy’s Law would assert that victims deserve rights equal to those being accused of a crime in court. Essentially pitting the victim against the accused is something we have always fought, to avoid the appeasement of vigilantism. The state, blind to everything except for the law, is the only legitimate seeker of justice. This intensely mischaracterizes how the American justice system operates. Victims deserve dignity, respect, and to know justice will be sought. They deserve to be informed about the status of their offender, notified and heard at criminal proceedings after a conviction. These protections are already in North Carolina Statutes. Marsy’s Law will hinder the equal rights and justice it claims to protect.

Marsy’s Law would jeopardize the justice system in terms of fairness, impartiality, and equality, destroy the concept of the rule of law, and upstage the 5th and 6th Amendments. Marsy’s Law would also make law enforcement’s jobs harder having more rules to follow which could lead to an appeal if done wrong, significantly add costs to the taxpayers, slow down the court process, and it would make mass incarceration in our country worse and disproportionately target the poor, black, and other minority communities. North Carolina prisons are already understaffed and overstocked with non-violent inmates. Now imagine the prison problems in our state after we have a restriction on early release. This amendment would worsen racial tensions and create more anti-police sentiments. The amendment is not for our country, not of our time, and does not follow the basic tenants of American jurisprudence.

In our American Republic, the purpose of the Constitution is to limit government power and instead protect the rights of the people. Marsy’s Law does something never proposed before. It grants the government power by helping the prosecution make convictions easier through influence of a victim using persuasive techniques before any conviction has been made, without any proof, to threaten the partiality of a jury and risk the integrity of the court. It would be rule of emotion, not rule of law. This amendment would also belittle the rights of the defendant, creating a dire consequence that the defendant may be judged before proof is laid before the court beyond a reasonable doubt, putting them in a situation where they may have to prove their innocence rather than the prosecution proving their guilt.

As a strict traditional conservative, I support the proposed amendments except this one because there is nothing conservative about it. From its unconstitutionality, anti-police consequences, racial discrimination, fiscal irresponsibility to the inequality, unfairness, and moral questions Marsy’s Law would present, this amendment violates American values. Big government liberals want Marsy’s Law to pass to undermine the presumption of innocence, in such as cases like Judge Kavanaugh’s, and undermine law enforcement. The statue of Lady Justice in Washington is blindfolded to symbolize the courts impartiality, and the principle that all are innocent in the eyes of justice until proven guilty. Make sure that justice remains blind by voting no for Marsy’s Law.

What do you think?

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