Victims' Rights Week? We Need to Protect the Rights of the Accused
As Barry Boss says in the Washington Post, regarding Victims' rights week which began yesterday,
Victims deserve the recognition that this week provides, and they deserve sympathy and compensation for their losses. But I am increasingly concerned about what I believe they do not deserve, which is the right to serve as de facto prosecutors, a practice that is quietly insinuating itself into the legal system.
I have long opposed the Victims' Rights Amendment and in the 90's, spent a great deal of my time lobbying Congress against it. Here's what I wrote about it back in 1997. As Boss notes, the danger now is this:
The latest manifestation of our "tough on crime" policy comes in the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which will implement the 2004 Crime Victims' Rights Act. One U.S. district judge ruled that the statute renders victims "independent participant[s] in the proceedings" and "commands that victims should be treated equally with the defendant, defense counsel, and the prosecutor."
The judge's position is absurd. The Bill of Rights was designed to protect persons accused of crime.
Any rights provided to the victim must come at the expense of the rights provided to a defendant. Indeed, providing the victim with a role in the prosecution assumes a crime has been committed, despite the bedrock constitutional proposition that the accused is presumed innocent.
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