Crime victim rights bill gets no vote

Full House still slated to take up proposal

CONCORD – The bill giving crime victims rights hit an obstacle Wednesday when the New Hampshire House Joint Committee of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee and Judiciary Committee voted against the Marsy’s Law proposal.

“After hearing hours of testimony from victims of crime, the committee chose to ignore their stories, their pain and their clear need for constitutional rights. While we are deeply disappointed in today’s committee vote, our efforts to enshrine crime victims’ rights in the state Constitution do not stop here,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, state director for Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire.

The committee voted 24 to 11 that the bill is inexpedient to legislate. It will still go to the full House of Representatives for consideration, and Sexton hopes to see a positive outcome for the law. If it does pass through the Legislature, Marsy’s Law still would require a change to the New Hampshire Constitution to be voted on by a statewide ballot.

Marsy’s Law gives victims of violent crimes the right to an attorney, the right to be at every court hearing involved with their crime and other rights pre- and post-trial. Some have worried that the law changes the presumption of innocence afforded to every American under the U.S. Constitution. The law is named for Marsalee Nicholas, a California college student who was killed by her boyfriend in 1983.

Gov. Chris Sununu is a supporter of the bill, and has campaigned in Concord in favor of the law. Sexton said there’s still the opportunity for legislators, regardless of party, to do the right thing.

“New Hampshire has a long, bipartisan tradition of putting politics aside to do what’s right for victims of crime in our state, and we hope the rest of the body is listening to constituents who want to see this commonsense amendment on the ballot in November,” she said.

Damien Fisher can be reached at 594-1245 or or @Telegraph_DF.