Senate vote puts crime victims' rights amendment on November ballot
supported by Madigan, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault
would strengthen protections for violent crime victims
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[April 17, 2014]
SPRINGFIELD — Attorney General
Lisa Madigan announced last week, during National Crime Victims'
Rights Week, that Illinois Senate lawmakers unanimously passed a
constitutional amendment to better protect crime victims and
strengthen their rights. The Senate vote April 10 ensures that the
amendment will be included on the November ballot for consideration
by voters across Illinois.
"Innocent victims of crime deserve every possible protection,"
Madigan said. "This amendment would ensure those who have endured
the tragedy of violent crime have their voice heard in court and can
effectively enforce their rights."
Senate lawmakers voted 59-0 to
HJRCA 1, known as Marsy's Law, to amend the Crime Victims Bill
of Rights in the Illinois Constitution to ensure victims have
comprehensive, meaningful and enforceable rights. The amendment,
sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Lou Lang, would strengthen
the rights of crime victims during criminal court proceedings
against their offenders, allow them the right to speak before the
court if their rights are violated and ensure those rights are
enforceable under the Illinois Constitution.
"Today, crime victims' rights took a giant step from paper to
enforcement," said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois
Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "The Illinois Legislature gave the
green light to its voting residents in November to decide if crime
victims have the right to ask a judge whether their constitutional
rights were violated in the pursuit of justice. Victims' rights are
no longer illusory in Illinois. The Illinois Coalition Against
Sexual Assault commends the Illinois Legislature for its courageous
action on behalf of victims' rights."
Under the Illinois Constitution, crime victims have a number of
important rights, including the right to be notified of criminal
court proceedings, the right to be present at the trial and to make
a statement to the court at sentencing. However, crime victims do
not have the ability to enforce their rights. As a result, in many
instances victims' rights have been ignored.
HJRCA 1 provides that crime victims should be guaranteed the
right to be informed of court proceedings, the right to present at
hearings and trial, and the right to present a statement to the
court about the impact of the crime. The amendment also allows
victims to obtain a hearing by the court before any court ruling on
a request for access to the victim's confidential or privileged
records. Under the amendment, victims also would be able to appeal
court decisions that affect their ability to exercise their rights.
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Along with the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the
amendment was supported by the Illinois State's Attorney's
Association, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and
numerous victim's rights organizations.
"When we were not allowed to make a victim impact statement at
the sentencing hearing for my sister's killer because the sentence
was mandatory, we were only beginning to understand how much it
would mean to us not to have our statement in the court record; for
the judge and offender not to hear how the crime had affected us,"
said Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, executive director of
IllinoisVictims.org. "Now, with Marsy's Law for Illinois, that kind
of thing will never happen to victims and families again."
Illinois is currently the only state in the nation that bars
effective enforcement of victims' rights guaranteed in the
constitution by preventing a victim from going to a higher court
when those rights are denied.
[Text from file received from the office of
Illinois Attorney General Lisa