Why "Marsy's Law" Is Flawed

January 9, 2019

Matt Rothschild’s testimony for today’s hearing on “Marsy’s Law,” a victims’ rights resolution that the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign opposes, as it would violate the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The resolution passed in the last session of the legislature, and if it passes in this session, it would then go to statewide referendum to amend Wisconsin’s constitution. The Wisconsin resolution is part of a nationwide effort spearheaded by the 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.

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Testimony of Matt Rothschild, Executive Director, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Before the Joint Public Hearing of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety and the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety,

In Opposition to: Assembly Joint Resolution 1 and 2019 Senate Joint Resolution 2, Relating to the Rights of Crime Victims

Good afternoon, honorable Committee chairs, and honorable members of the Assembly and Senate Committees.

I’m Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which since 1995 now has stood for clean and open government, where everyone has an equal say and where our rights and liberties are protected.

We oppose these joint resolutions for one simple reason. They contain a poisonous item that interferes with the fundamental right of the accused, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

I refer you to the item marked “L” that 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 Fourteenth 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 violating these amendments, as well.

This 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. These resolutions would only increase those powers.

For this reason, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign urges you to vote against these resolutions.