Two hundred and sixty-seven days ago Sierra LaMar disappeared while walking to the school bus. Her family has spent nearly every Saturday at a search center working with volunteers who are trying to find the missing 15-year-old cheerleader. Steve and Marlene LaMar are among the first to arrive in the morning, and the last to leave in the afternoon. This morning was particularly cold, yet several dozen search volunteers braved temperatures in the low 40’s to look for Sierra.
Two hundred and one days ago a suspect was arrested and charged with kidnapping and murdering Sierra. He resides in the relative comfort of a jail cell at the Santa Clara County Jail Complex. The authorities are protecting him so he resides in a solitary cell, segregated from the other prisoners. He eats three meals per day and the police cannot question him without his attorney being present. We the people are paying for the attorney. If he is injured or gets sick guess who pays the healthcare tab? Although he has yet to enter a plea to the charges against him, twenty-six days ago the suspect was charged with trying to kidnap three other victims during three separate car jackings. Charges are piling up like a criminal justice train wreck, but at least his rights aren’t being violated.
The American criminal justice system provides no equity to victims. The United States Constitution enumerates numerous rights for criminal defendants, yet the word victim is never mentioned. His right to remain silent supersedes their right to recover Sierra. His right to endless delays overrides their right to closure or piece of mind. I fear that we may never know what happened to Sierra because our society is so invested in protecting monsters from their own sins.
Thirty-two states, including California, have passed victim rights amendments to their state constitutions. They include things like the right to attend criminal proceedings, the right to be treated with dignity, and the right to apply for compensation, but in the final analysis they lack the power of the United States Constitution. So victims always take the backseat and even if they win they come in second place. We need a victim’s rights amendment to the US Constitution.