With the passage of Proposition 9, "Marsy's Law", in California in November 2008, the nation and especially victims now have the gold standard for victims rights nationally: Rights that align with all 9 victims rights nationally and rights that are, most importantly, enforceable!
See the full Proposition which will now become a model for us to implement in Illinois. See details of our new campaign for 2009 to revise the Illinois Victims Rights Amendment to the Constitution along the same lines.
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Update: November 2008
We wanted to share the
great news that California's Prop 9, Marsy's Law, Crime Victims' Bill of
Rights Act of 2008, passed!!!! The National Organization of Parents Of
Murdered Children, Inc. played a large role in ensuring that voices of
homicide survivors were heard. Proposition 9 amended the state
constitution to afford victims with clear and legally enforceable rights.
This victims’ rights provisions do not interfere with rights of the
accused at all, and is now among the most advanced in the country,
including the right:
AND also November 2008:
We wrote to the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court about our concerns that the law was not being complied with regards to posting victims rights in Illinois Courthouses.
And we got a very promising letter back! We will keep you all posted but we are excited that our efforts may pay off!
We have not checked all the county courthouses in the state, but the many we have checked are not in compliance with a state law that requires them to post a copy of what Rights Victims have under the Illinois Constitution.
We have seen in every courthouse, however, the required postings of defendant's rights.
We wonder, why is it that county courthouses all over the state can follow one part of the law in this regard, but ignore the most important people of all in the criminal justice process - the victims?
Illinois Law clearly states:
A statement and explanation of the rights of crime victims set forth in paragraph (a) of this Section shall be given to a crime victim at the initial contact with the criminal justice system by the appropriate authorities and shall be conspicuously posted in all court facilities.
We believe that all 102 States' Attorneys will have to work separately at the county level to ensure compliance with this law, that we know for a fact is not generally being complied with, and is in fact, being totally ignored. We are grateful that candidates for the upcoming race for States Attorney in Cook County including Larry Suffredin and Bob Milan have promised to make an issue of this.
We will also suggest to Attorney General Lisa Madigan that her office investigate the non-compliance with this state law by courthouses all over the state.
The bottom line is this: the law was created because every day scared, hurting, vulnerable people whose lives have often been brutally victimized for the first time walk into an Illinois Courthouse. They need to know what they can expect!
This is one of the most crucial times in their lives. They need good information. They may be lucky enough to be receiving victims' services, but that system is overburdened in most parts of the state, and non-existent in others. Click here to take action.
Many people are aware that the Illinois Constitution spells out the rights of victims of crime. But did you know that in the statutory protections as those rights are explained in Illinois Law, it states the rights of victims and then includes this wording:
(b) A statement and explanation of the rights of crime victims set forth in paragraph (a) of this Section shall be given to a crime victim at the initial contact with the criminal justice system by the appropriate authorities and shall be conspicuously posted in all court facilities.
How many times have you seen a poster in a courthouse fulfilling this requirement? We have seen none. Yet, we have seen many posters explaining the rights of defendants placed as a public service.
When we investigated this violation of victims rights some time ago, we were told that many judges and defense attorneys objected to posting victim rights in the courthouses. In one case, the courthouse authorities were willing to entertain a compromise whereby a poster would be placed only in the victim waiting rooms. While we appreciate this nominal move in our direction, we do not believe that this is in compliance with the spirit of the law.
We are not impressed by the attitude represented here. If the judges and defense attorneys in question have a problem with this statute, then they should petition the legislature to change the law, rather than violating it themselves. Of course, it is unlikely that they will be able to get legislators to vote against victims on the record. That's particularly bad for re-election prospects.
It is our opinion that the defendant's rights do
belong in the courtroom, right alongside the victims' rights. This
fair and equal treatment would send an important message to the public and
increase the awareness of our rights as victims of crime.
What You Can Do
Whenever you enter a courthouse, any courthouse in the State of Illinois, be aware of this requirement. If you do not see that the courthouse is in compliance with the law consider doing the following:
If you are the victim in an active case, bring the lack of compliance to the attention of your victim advocate and prosecutor and ask for their help in resolving this abuse of victim rights.
If you are not the victim in an active case, write to the presiding judge in your jurisdiction requesting that the courthouse, and all courthouses in Illinois be brought into compliance.
And write to the Attorney General of Illinois state or regional offices to request that all courthouses be brought into compliance with the law in this regard.
If they hear from enough of us, they will not be able to ignore us. Remember, victims are often the only ones who can protect our rights.