The for the individual accused of kidnapping and killing Sierra LaMar demonstrated yet again, the preferential treatment afforded to criminals.
The defendant waived his right to appear in court and his lawyers asked for the hearing to be postponed while they subpoena cell phone records currently under seal. The judge granted a continuance until Aug. 29, when a plea may be entered.
This shadow maneuver only postpones the inevitable since it is guaranteed that the defendant will plead not guilty to all charges. I agree with the constitutional guarantees that Sierra’s accused killer must treated fairly, but what about her family? Shouldn’t they have rights too?
In order to guarantee equal protection under the law the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights, provides fundamental rights to individuals who are accused of crimes.
Those rights include: the presumption that the defendant is innocent, the burden on the prosecution to prove guild beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to remain silent, confront witnesses, have a public trial by jury, be adequately represented by an attorney, not to be tried twice for the same offense and the right to a speedy trial.
Of the 50 states, 32 have amendments in their constitutions that guarantee some level of victims’ rights, and more than 32,000 statutes have been passed in states and at the federal level that define and protect the rights of crime victims. These rights vary from state to state, but tend to include: the right to notification of proceedings and to attend proceedings, the right to be heard, the right to compensation and the right to protection.
The major distinction between defendants’ rights and victims’ rights is that the United States Constitution guarantees the rights of defendants, while the rights of victims are guaranteed by either statute or a state’s constitution. The word victim does not exist in the U.S. Constitution and victims of crime have virtually no legal standing in the ultimate law of the land. This means that there is no equity under the law. The rights of defendants will always trump the rights of victims.
The only way that crime victims will ever receive equal treatment in the criminal justice system is through the passage of a crime victims’ amendment to the United States Constitution.
Amending the U.S. Constitution is a difficult process. Amendments must be proposed to the states by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, and then be ratified by three-fourths of the states before it becomes law. Currently, there are 27 amendments to the United States Constitution.
It is an unfortunate irony that constitutional rights created to protect the innocent now shield the guilty.
In 2010, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced an estimated 18.7 million violent and property crime victimizations. That is down from 2001, when we suffered 24.2 million violent and property crime victimizations.
When missions of American citizens’ lives are forever impacted by the violent actions of others, we need to take steps to protect their rights as we do the rights of the accused.
What can we do to rectify this imbalance? A bi-partisan effort to create a Victims’ Rights Amendment fell short about a decade ago. Sponsored by Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and with the support of Presidents Clinton and Bush, the proposed amendment never made it to the states for ratification.
However, House Joint Resolution 6, currently before the United States Congress, would establish a Victims Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If passed, H. J. Res. 106 will give victims of crime the right to fairness, respect, and dignity. Victims will further have the right to reasonable notice of and ability to attend public proceedings relating to the offense; the rights to be heard at any release, plea, sentencing, or other such proceeding.
My sources tell me that 100 co-sponsors will bring House Joint Resolution 6t to the House Floor for a vote! We need to act now before the legislative session draws to a close. Your voice matters! Visit www.congressmerge.com/onlinedb to find your Representative, call him or her now and ask him or her to co-sponsor H. J. Res. 106.
We should never lightly amend the United States Constitution. However, victims of crime will never be fairly treated by a system that does not afford them equal fundamental rights, and that can only be achieved through constitutional amendment.
Thomas Jefferson eloquently stated the need to occasionally modify the ultimate law of the land: “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered, and manners and opinions change;
Wth the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.