By a wide margin Kentuckians voted last week for a constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law. Whether or not that nod from voters ends up resulting in a change to the state’s constitution now awaits a decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court who is reviewing a challenge to how the ballot question was worded.
As the question was worded on the ballot here and across the state, Marsy’s Law seemed like a no brainer with a predictable answer: “Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to the victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and have a voice in the judicial process.
Most of us likely read it and wondered if we weren’t already giving victims the same rights as the accused. And if not, then let’s get started right away.
As it was stated, it was akin to asking a child if they wanted broccoli or ice cream for dinner. Is there really more than one way to answer that question?
As it turns out, Marsy’s Law may be more than meets the eye and deserving of the scrutiny of the state’s Supreme Court Justices. It’s just a shame that didn’t happen prior to last week’s election but apparently ballots had been printed before the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers issued the challenge arguing deceptive wording of the measure.
As approved by voters in Kentucky and a few other states, the law may actually serve to slow the legal process and give unintended rights to the accused.
The Courier Journal reported just days before Kentucky’s election about problems with Marsy’s Law, saying a South Dakota lawmaker lamented, “the law sounded good, but didn’t end up being what it was advertised.” South Dakota passed the law three years ago.
A colleague at a Bismarck, South Dakota newspaper advised, “it does nothing but slow the system,” after sharing an account of a police officer who shot an unarmed man with outstanding warrants. The police officer filed as a victim and the court system was left to sort through the muddied water before setting about its normal course of action.
Similar consequences of a law that at face value is well intentioned have been reported across states who amended their constitutions to include it.
Kentucky should learn from those who have had to sort through those consequences and ensure we don’t end up doing more harm than good to victims of crime before moving forward.
So, what’s next, now that Kentucky voters have said they support the law?
According to The Courier Journal, if the high court upholds the challenge supporters would have to try to rewrite a bill for legislative approval that would survive constitutional challenges.
It’s quite simply a mess that indeed deserves the attention of the state’s highest court.