#StandWithLizzi - Support Marsy's Law
The rights afforded to victims of crime under CACR 22, specifically the Constitutional right to privacy and the Constitutional right to be heard, would have changed my experience with the New Hampshire’s criminal justice system. I became a victim when my caring and cheerful daughter Lizzi was murdered and raped in Dover, New Hampshire in 2012. Three and a half years after she was murdered, my family’s lives were again turned upside down when the murderer appealed his conviction to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and argued that private, unsubstantiated information about Lizzi, sealed during the trial, should be made public.
The Court was very clear when it ruled: Lizzi’s statutory rights were not absolute and in the circumstances of my daughter’s case, the public’s constitutional right to information trumped Lizzi’s statutory right to privacy and required the unsealing of the court record. It didn't matter that the Victims Bill of Rights includes "The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy".
Without constitutional protections, the next victim in my position will be forced to hear that their statutory rights are inferior to the constitutional rights that both the defendant and the public enjoy.
I have heard opponents of this legislation say it solves no problems but I have personally experienced problems that would’ve been solved with this constitutional amendment, alleviating the terror, frustration, anger, and helplessness that I experienced.
First, CACR 22 will raise a victim’s right to privacy to the same constitutional level as the rights afforded to the public and to defendants – and would have given us, Lizzi's family, the level playing field needed to protect her confidential information and her legacy. Put yourself in the position I was in. The intimate details of your loved one, details that are not relevant to the case, but would smear their name and hurt their legacy. Do you want them published on the internet, blasted into the homes of everyone, especially those who knew them? I had to deal with inequality of statutory rights vs constitutional rights, CACR 22 will put the weight of the Constitution behind victims’ rights and will make sure no other victim is in the same position that I was.
I’ve heard claims that allowing victims a constitutional right to privacy will somehow take away from the public’s right to information about criminal cases. This isn’t true. Providing victims with constitutional rights will simply allow New Hampshire courts to weigh those rights equally, along with the constitutional rights afforded to defendants and the public, and make a fair determination.
Second, CACR 22 also guarantees victims the right to be heard – a right that I didn’t have. In early 2016, prior to the June 10th decision, the court asked the defense and the state if it should release Lizzi's private details during the appeal. I had no opportunity to weigh in on this decision. After the devastation of the decision to release Lizzi’s private information we were hit with the follow up punch, we didn't have a right to be heard, all we could do is ask to intervene. When you are a victim today, you do not have any say in what is happening. You can confer, you can ask or beg, but you are only a child sitting at the adults’ table. This is frustrating, and when you’re trying to protect your loved one, it is horrible.
This anguish would have been avoided if CACR 22 had been in place. We wouldn’t have had to spend 5 months fighting to protect Lizzi’s privacy or fighting for our right to simply be heard. We had to endure being re-victimized, pleading our case at numerous press conferences, along with the associated stress.
I take offense when I hear opponents of Marsy’s Law claim that victims of crime do not need constitutional rights. These rights are the only thing that can make sure another father doesn’t have to go through what I did.
Participating in the criminal justice system as a father whose daughter was murdered is hard enough – not being treated fairly or with dignity and respect made it worse.
I’ve heard it suggested that the New Hampshire Legislature should address victims’ rights in statute rather than through a constitutional amendment – but, as a father who has seen his daughter’s statutory rights trampled and ignored, I am here to say this is not true.
This amendment will elevate a victim’s rights to the same constitutional level of the rights of the defendant and the public – allowing the courts to balance these rights. It also provides an enforcement mechanism that enables victims to have a voice when these rights are at risk. The only way to rectify this imbalance is to amend the constitution to include victims’ rights. It’s time for CACR 22.