NH Crime Victims And Advocates Testify in Support of Marsy's Law
NH CRIME VICTIMS AND ADVOCATES TESTIFY IN SUPPORT OF MARSY’S LAW
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Amanda Grady Sexton (603) 548-9377
CONCORD – Today, victims of crime, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and elected officials testified before the House Judiciary and House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committees in support of CACR 22, or, Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire. Marsy’s Law is an amendment that will establish Constitutional rights for victims of crime.
The hearing, which lasted over seven hours, was packed with New Hampshire citizens who support the passage of Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire.
Key testimony included the following:
“People who become victims of crimes deserve to be heard. They deserve constitutional protections, just as the accused does - no more, no less. This issue has roots. Our state has been talking about victims’ rights for 25 years. Victims deserve meaningful, enforceable rights. It’s time to pass Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire,” said Governor Chris Sununu.
“For over two decades the people of New Hampshire have been working toward this important amendment, and yet, still nothing has been done,” said Senator Donna Soucy. “We should all be able to agree that no rapist should have more rights than their victims. No murderer should have greater rights than their victim’s family. CACR 22 is a New Hampshire response to a New Hampshire problem. We must listen to the impassioned voices in today’s hearing and pass CACR 22 in the House and pass it on to the ballot this November.”
“I have heard opponents of this legislation say it solves no problems—my family and I have lived the problems that make Marsy’s Law necessary. When my daughter was brutally murdered, we had no voice, no standing in the system that was supposed to bring justice to Lizzi. With Constitutional rights that were given equal consideration to the defendant, much of the terror, anger, and helplessness that we experienced in the process would have been alleviated. New Hampshire needs Marsy’s Law to protect the next family who experiences the unspeakable tragedy that we did,” said Bob Marriott, whose daughter Lizzi was raped and murdered in 2012.
“Too often victims of crime go unseen and unheard in the criminal justice system. That is wrong and it must change,” said Strafford County Attorney Tom Velardi. “I’ve prosecuted cases where the defendant was allowed to delay proceedings for six years. Crime victims suffer terrible anguish; families are torn apart, jobs and homes are lost, and for some, the pain never goes away. We can’t fix everything for people who become victims of crimes, but with CACR 22 we can bring more equity to the system.”
“I have been working for years with victim advocates and the fine staff at HAVEN trying to improve our state’s response to and support of crime victims. We have been working together to make improvements through statutory changes, but these statutes have not solved the problem. The time to do more is now. New Hampshire needs CACR 22 to bring balance to our criminal justice system by providing basic constitutional rights to crime victims. Until we elevate the rights of victims, we will have a system that is unjust and unequal,” said Senator Martha Fuller Clark.
“There is a Victims Bill of Rights under current New Hampshire law. However, these rights are only statutory, and the rights afforded to the accused and convicted are constitutional. In reality, this means that the rights of the accused and convicted will always outweigh the rights of their victims. While it is of course very important for the accused to have constitutional rights, it seems only reasonable that victims should have very basic, commonsense rights in the constitution as well. Right now, in the New Hampshire constitution, victims have zero rights,” said Paula Czech Lesmerises, a survivor of child sexual abuse.
Carissa Dowd, who was kidnapped and raped by a stranger in front of her two young children, added “I have heard some say that statutory rights are sufficient for victims of crime and that enshrining these rights in the constitution will not make them any more enforceable. If that’s the case, then why don’t we remove defendants’ rights from the constitution and put them in statute? If statutory rights are sufficient for victims, then why aren’t they good enough for defendants? I was not notified that my rapist was being released—I wasn’t given the opportunity to weigh in or speak to the impact that him moving to New Hampshire would have on me and my children. I needed the protection from the government. I needed the same weight of law that he had. Please don’t tell me that statutes are enough. I’ve lived through the system and I can tell you that they’re not. When you say that a person who has been kidnapped and raped in front of their children doesn’t deserve basic constitutional protections—then, who does?”
“Two years after my sister’s murderer was convicted he climbed a wall and escaped from prison. For two weeks he was free in the community and no one notified us. Years later, in spite of the escape, he was paroled. Again, no one notified us. We did not know he was up for parole, we did not know he had a parole hearing and we did not know he was released. After what we’ve been through as a family, not much scares me, but the thought of coming face to face with that monster terrifies me,” testified Bill Greeley, whose sister Lee Ann was murdered in New Hampshire in 1973. His sister’s killer both escaped and was released without his family being notified. “Marsy’s Law would have protected my family. Having enforceable constitutional rights would’ve at least made sure that the parole board had all of the relevant information before releasing a dangerous predator back into society.”
“My experience with the criminal justice system is a textbook case of why Marsy’s Law is so critically needed in New Hampshire. As the victim of a violent crime, my statutory rights were repeatedly ignored and dismissed. The entire judicial process was a revictimization for me. The problem is not the statutes on the books or the prosecutors. The problem is that statutory rights are always subservient to constitutional rights. The only way to assure true justice for all is to give victims meaningful, enforceable rights under our State Constitution,” stated Tiffany Roberts, a survivor of sexual assault.
Another sexual assault survivor, Debbie Verdicchio, said, “I had my power stripped away when I was drugged and raped. The very system that was supposed to hold him accountable stripped my power away again and silenced me. Victims of crime deserve better. Elevating my statutory rights to the same constitutional level as the man that violated me is the only way to have ensured that I had a voice in the process and had the chance to address the court prior to conclusion of the case. I understand my statement may not have changed the outcome of the case, but at least I would have been heard.”
“It was devastating enough to lose both of my sons to crime, but to know that the men who took their lives are guaranteed enforceable constitutional rights while both of my children, nor I, don’t have a single constitutional protection – that caused unnecessary anguish,” said Alberta Flanders, whose 21-year-old son was murdered in 2010 and whose 31-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver in 2016.
About Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire:
Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire represents two decades of advocates’ work to establish enforceable rights for victims of crime. In coordination with the NH Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire is a broad coalition of Granite Staters working to ensure that victims of crime in our state are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect and are provided with enforceable constitutional rights.
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