WHEELERweek – 05/30/17

As published by The Wheeler Report – July 25, 1991 …

Sen. Barbara Ulichny and Atty. Gen. Doyle pushed for passage of a proposed constitutional amendment establishing crime victims’ rights (SJR-41) before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

According to the Legislative Reference Bureau 1991 SJR 41 and 1993 SJR 3 passed and were placed on the April 1993 ballot.  The proposal passed with a vote of 861,405 – 163,087.

The constitutional (Article I, section 9m) says, “[As created by April 1993] This state shall treat crime victims, as defined by law, with fairness, dignity and respect for their privacy. This state shall ensure that crime victims have all of the following privileges and protections as provided by law: timely disposition of the case; the opportunity to attend court proceedings unless the trial court finds sequestration is necessary to a fair trial for the defendant; reasonable protection from the accused throughout the criminal justice process; notification of court proceedings; the opportunity to confer with the prosecution; the opportunity to make a statement to the court at disposition; restitution; compensation; and information about the outcome of the case and the release of the accused. The legislature shall provide remedies for the violation of this section. Nothing in this section, or in any statute enacted pursuant to this section, shall limit any right of the accused which may be provided by law. [1993 J.R. 2, vote April 1993]”


And Today …

On April 4, Sen. Van Wanggaard, Rep. Todd Novak and Atty Gen. Schimel held a press conference to announce a move to increase crime victims’ rights; Marsy’s Law. Sen. Wanggaard and Rep. Todd Novak introduced SJR-53 and AJR-47, which grant constitutional rights to crime victims.

Two Supreme Court decisions, Shiffra in 1993 and Green in 2002, known as Shiffra-Green, granted defendants the right to access medical records of victims, including psychological records. Proponents of the constitutional amendment say that victims of crimes should have constitutional rights that protect them from being victimized again by the defendant, arguing that a defendant’s constitutional rights always trump the statutory rights of a victim.  Proponents argue that this proposal, if passed, levels the playing field, yet still protects the rights of defendants.

The proposal, if passed, would provide the following items to victims:

  1. a) To be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity and fairness.
  2. b) To privacy.
  3. c) To have information or records protected that could be used to locate or harass the victim or that could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.
  4. d) To proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
  5. e) To timely disposition of the case, free from unreasonable delay.
  6. f) To be present at all times at all proceedings involving the case.
  7. g) To reasonable protection from the accused throughout the justice process.
  8. h) To reasonable and timely notification of proceedings.
  9. i) To confer with the attorney for the government.
  10. j) To be informed by and provide input to the attorney for the government about any case disposition agreement, including a plea agreement, deferred prosecution agreement, or diversion agreement before a decision is made concerning such agreement.
  11. k) To be heard in any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated including release, plea, sentencing, disposition, parole, revocation, expungement, or pardon.
  12. l) To have information submitted to the authority with jurisdiction over the case pertaining to the economic, physical and psychological effect of the crime or juvenile offense upon the victim and have the information considered by that authority.
  13. m) To timely notice of any release or escape of the accused or death of the accused if the accused is in custody or on supervision at the time of death.
  14. n) To refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused.
  15. o) To full restitution and to be provided with assistance collecting restitution.
  16. p) To have any monies or property collected from any person who has been ordered to make restitution to the victim be applied first to restitution of the victim before being applied to any amounts owed by that person to the government.
  17. q) To compensation as provided by law.
  18. r) To timely information about the outcome of the case.
  19. s) To timely notice about all rights in this section and all other rights, privileges, or protections of the victim provided by law, including how such rights, privileges, or protections are enforced.

Atty Gen. Schimel said, “We are talking about a natural progression of Wisconsin’s proud history. Through Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin we can create truly equal rights for Wisconsin crime victims.”

Rep. Novak said, “We need a way to guarantee people affected by violent crime are protected. In a small town, everybody knows everyone… In Wisconsin, victims already have many rights. We are seeking to make sure these rights are written clearly in the constitution, not simply in state statute. For example, we are elevating the right to put restitution for victim payments ahead of any dollars owed to the government. Our bill is going to give a victim the constitutional right to have his or her voice heard at every step of the process.”

Sen. Wanggaard told the Wheeler Report, ”I have been on the prosecuting side of a criminal matter, and on the victim side. It is an eye-opening experience, and has given me a unique perspective. It’s two different worlds.  As a victim, you don’t necessarily have a voice, or knowledge of what’s going on. You’re at the mercy of the court system.  Most prosecutors do a good job keeping victims involved in the process and giving them a voice.  Unfortunately, for some victims that is not the case. In those situations, the prosecutorial process can be almost as traumatic as the initial crime. That’s unacceptable. In the quarter century since the constitutional amendment was originally passed, and even in the 5 years since I added victim protection to the statutes, we’ve seen a lot of evolution in the area of victims’ rights. It’s important to revisit this and reflect on what we have learned. One of the things we’ve learned is that courts give greater preference to constitutional rights, and that statutory rights are always secondary. Victims should have constitutionally equal rights to defendants in the court, and they should be heard throughout the process. They should be consulted before a plea bargain or sentence is implemented. It’s the common sense and fair thing to do.”