It takes a certain type of person to oppose a law named after a young woman murdered in her prime that purports to protect victims’ rights. This is doubly true when the primary force behind that law is a grieving brother who also happens to be a billionaire.
In 2018, voters in Florida, Nevada, Oklahoma, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Georgia passed versions of Marsy’s Law, joining five states that already had such measures on the books. The Marsy’s Law for All campaign says these constitutional amendments “give victims of crime equal rights that are already afforded to the accused and convicted,” such as the right to be notified about and to speak at court proceedings.
A motley crew of critics sees things differently. They range from the usual suspects, such as defense attorneys and state affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to former and current prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and even Florida’s League of Women Voters.
Marsy’s Law is vaguely written, which is part of the problem. But opponents mostly agree the real issue is that it infringes on the constitutional rights of the accused by making it harder for them to defend themselves. Critics also argue that the more defensible parts of Marsy’s Law are redundant: About two-thirds of states have already enshrined some form of victims’ rights in their constitutions, and the rest have victims’ rights statutes.
The Marsy’s Law movement, in other words—well-intentioned though it may be—is an unnecessary and emotionally manipulative assault on due process and the presumption of innocence, writes Matthew Harwood.