Should the Iowa Constitution be amended to aid crime victims?
Proposals to amend the Iowa Constitution to guarantee crime victims' rights have stalled in the Iowa House and Senate amid objections they offer false hopes and raise questions whether they would undermine Iowa's justice system.
Senate Study Bill 3040 and House Joint Resolution 2003 are patterned after Marsy's Law, which was enacted in California after a young woman was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after the slaying, the victim's mother encountered the assailant in a grocery store, unaware he was released on bail. Similar measures have been enacted in Illinois, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Ohio.
...Victims' groups were on both sides of the debate.
"This is largely a symbolic bill," said Kerri True-Funk, a crime victim who is associate director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "Let's be real. This is an empty promise that will not change anything the ground for victims of violent crime." Changes are in needed in culture, not the Iowa Constitution, she added.
Laura Hessburg, director of public policy for the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said Iowa law already comprehensively addresses the rights of crime victims and assistance. She also expressed concerns about undermining due process rights, For example, some women who are crime victims can be accused of a crime, but plead guilty simply to return more quickly to their families or their jobs, she said.