Vote ‘no’ on Issue 1

Ballot issues often come disguised as something they are not. In addition to the official information that identifies them on the ballot, they come with names designed to play on our sympathies or to mislead us into believing they will fill a void that does not exist.

That appears to be the case with Ohio’s Issue 1, also known as “Marsy’s Law.” Supporters — who named the law for Marsy Nicholas, a California woman who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend — say this proposed constitutional amendment aims to expand crime victims’ rights because the existing code and state constitution do not do enough in that regard. In the California case, Nicholas’ mother and brother encountered the ex-boyfriend in public without knowing he had been released from custody.

Here in Ohio, however, many legal professionals oppose Issue 1. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys say Issue 1 would allow victims to withhold evidence during criminal cases that could benefit defendants if it were disclosed. So, Issue 1 appears to conflict with the Bill of Rights by infringing on critical rights of the accused in order to expand the rights of victims. Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato said this is unnecessary, since current law already protects victims’ rights. He added that, “it is up to the judge to protect the victim from an unfair or (overly broad) discovery requests.”

Under the amendment, crime victims would have the rights to: notification of all proceedings in the case; be heard at every step of the process; have input on all plea deals for offenders; and restitution. Those all sound like positive things, but they are rights that already are provided in Ohio.

Amending the Ohio Constitution by adopting Issue 1 would result in increased litigation and increased cost to taxpayers, according to the office of the Ohio Public Defender.

“The problem in Ohio is not the absence of victims’ rights, but the lack of a remedy when the government fails to carry out duties owed to victims,” the office said.

We believe that Issue 1 is wrong for Ohio. It seems unnecessary to amend the state constitution to provide protections that already exist, especially if that amendment will infringe on the rights of others in the process. When you go to the polls on Tuesday, we urge you to vote “no” on Issue 1.