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Why Anita Alvarez opposes victim's rights amendment

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Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez testified Wednesday in Springfield against a proposed victim's rights amendment to the Illinois Constitution (as the amendment is currently written).

Alvarez, who also is in midterm as the president of the Illinois State's Attorneys Association, was accompanied by DuPage State's Attorney Bob Berlin and the state's attorneys from several other Illinois counties when she testified before the Illinois Senate's Executive Committee.

One of the amendment's features that worries prosecutors is that victims would be entitled to representation by their own lawyers.

For two centuries, the justice system has been based on the idea of two parties in court: the prosecutor representing the people and a lawyer for the defendant. The amendment would break new ground by giving a victim the right to have an attorney participating in the process as well.

Anita Alvarez

The law is vague about whether taxpayers would have to pick up the tab for victims' lawyers if they cannot afford one.

Alvarez also said prosecutors are concerned about which stages of a trial victims would have the right to interject. The amendment says it would be at any proceeding at which a right of the victim is at issue.

Imagine something like a bombing case, in which there are 40 victims. Would they all have their own lawyers? Prosecutors worry something like that could cripple the criminal justice system.

There's also a provision that victims are entitled to certain documents and reports. But in Chicago, many of the crimes are gang-vs.-gang. This week's suspect could be last week's victim. An unintended consequence of the amendment could be to give people who are less than pure at heart access to documents in a way that could pose dangers to others.

Alvarez also raised other concerns.

The Illinois political website Capitol Fax reports the proposal is being backed by California billionaire Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom.

The amendment has passed in the House and has cleared the Senate Executive Committee. Debate now moves to associated enabling legislation.

Read a Sun-Times editorial here

Read the Marsy's Law Fact Sheet.doc here

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on April 19, 2012 4:11 PM.

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