Marsy’s Law already being used to hide public information

That didn’t take long.

We asked in an editorial published shortly before the November election whether the constitutional amendment on the ballot in Nevada and other states — known as Marsy’s Law and sold as a victim rights measure — could prevent the release of names of crime victims and crime reports. “It does require respect for the victim’s privacy after all,” we noted.

The Associated Press is reporting that the police chief in Sebring, Fla., is refusing to release the names of some of the five women killed in

a bank recently. The chief noted that the “Marsy’s Law” amendment to the state constitution approved by voters in November allows crime victims to prevent the disclosure of information that could be used to locate or harass them or their families.

The AP account quotes Barbara Petersen of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation as asking the logical question, “How do we hold law enforcement accountable? Are we going to start having secret trials, crime victims testifying behind curtains?”

The ACLU of Nevada opposed Marsy’s Law for this very reason, saying that granting victims constitutional rights equal to the accused undermines the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments, which are meant to limit the power of government. It “undermines the presumption of innocence by allowing victims to be involved in procedural processes prior to conviction,” the ACLU argued.

The “rights” created under Nevada’s version of Marsy’s Law include the right to refuse an interview or deposition request, unless under court order, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview. This directly interferes with the accused-but-not-yet-convicted person’s Sixth Amendment Right to effective assistance of an attorney.

Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done. Marsy’s Law can block the public’s access to information needed to make sure public officials are actually carrying out their duties responsibly and effectively.

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