On Jan. 9, the Legislature held a joint hearing on “Marsy’s Law.” It’s an effort to change the Wisconsin Constitution, ostensibly to protect victims’ rights.
But it’s misguided.
The resolution contains a poisonous item that interferes with the fundamental right of the accused, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
It says that victims shall be entitled “to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused.”
This would be a facial violation of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor…”
The U.S. Constitution, under the Fifth and 14th Amendments, also guarantees defendants “due process of law,” and by denying them the ability to confront their witnesses, these resolutions would be depriving them of due process and thus violate these amendments as well.
The Wisconsin Legislature does not have the power, nor should it have the power, to override the Constitution of the United States or to amend the Bill of Rights.
Increasingly, our legislatures and our courts have stripped away at the fundamental due process rights of the accused. The government has immense and growing powers to deprive people of life, liberty and property. Marsy’s Law would only increase those powers.
There is one additional problem that has to do with how our legislators decide on which resolutions to back. In other words, who is driving this effort?
Nationwide, the answer is billionaire Henry Nicholas, who has spent $72 million in six other states so far to amend their constitutions, according to Forbes.
In the last legislative session in Wisconsin, a lobbying group calling itself Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, LLC, spent a whopping $864,710 on the resolution here.
This effort to amend the Wisconsin Constitution does not appear to emanate from the people of Wisconsin but from an out-of-state billionaire.
He shouldn’t be able to purchase an amendment to our Wisconsin Constitution.
Matt Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. He testified against Marsy’s Law at the Jan. 9 hearing.
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