Why the Iowa Legislature should support Marsy's Law

Written by: Ashley Hinson and Marti Anderson

A brave woman stood before a crowd at the Iowa Capitol recently. Her hands slightly shaking, she showed no fear as she testified before a legislative subcommittee recounting the night she was viciously assaulted by someone she loved, someone she trusted.

She didn’t flinch as she remembered how she drove herself to the hospital for a rape kit that took 77 days to be processed. There was a grand jury hearing and indictment before her perpetrator was arrested. In all, she suffered nearly a 10-month justice delay and debacle. Her voice trembled as she stated, “The rights of my perpetrator were greater than mine.”

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Des Moines Register

Why the Iowa Legislature should support Marsy's Law

February 20, 2018


We have sponsored Marsy’s Law, House Joint Resolution 2003, to place basic rights in Iowa’s Constitution right alongside the rights of the accused. The rights of a defendant and a crime victim are not identical, but with Marsy’s Law, both will have permanence and constitutional standing.

In Iowa, we have good crime victim rights laws to support crime victims, especially victims of violent crime. These laws, all enacted since 1985, were consolidated in Iowa Code Chapter 915 by the General Assembly in 1998. It is time for Iowa to take the next step and secure those rights with a constitutional amendment.

Under Iowa law, crime victims have the right to register to be notified and present at any or all case proceedings; be heard at sentencing and parole hearings; be protected from intimidation and violence by the defendant and the defendant’s family or friends; request a court order for offender-paid restitution of the victim’s financial losses; and notification of any change in the convicted offender’s status, location, release, escape or death.

Some say these laws suffice — they are “fine” the way they are. But laws can be changed and statutory rights can be ignored. In some cases, victims are informed about what’s happening in their case, some are given the chance to speak at hearings, some are informed when the person they accused of a crime is released from prison. Then again, some are not.

“Fine” is no longer good enough for crime victims in Iowa. The rights of criminal defendants and the rights of crime victims can be equally protected in our Constitution. A constitutional amendment will give strength to victim rights. The criminal justice system will be constitutionally directed to treat crime victims with respect and dignity.

Marsy’s Law is a national effort spearheaded by Dr. Henry Nicholas to secure crime victim constitutional rights in every state. Dr. Nicholas’ sister, Marsy, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in California, compelling Nicholas’ passion for crime victim justice. There are 34 states with crime victim rights constitutional amendments, some in place for three decades.

Iowa’s Constitution is an emblem of what we hold most sacred in our state. The rights of victims should be in this fundamental charter; crime victims deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

State Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion) can be reached at [email protected]

State Rep. Marti Anderson (D-Des Moines) can be reached at [email protected]