“Marsy’s Law was passed; where does it come in to help my child?” Sauk Co. mom wants answers

Marsy’s Law strengthens existing victim rights like the right to privacy, to speak in front of a judge and the right to a trial without unreasonable delays among other things. It was passed back in April 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 7:56 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 30, 2021 at 4:52 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -It’s been one year since a law passed in Wisconsin that strengthens rights for victims of a crime. But one Sauk County mom says so far, it’s done nothing to help her daughter through the court process.

“I’m doing this for my daughter today. I’m doing this because victims need more rights,” said Sara. Her identity is being hidden to protect her 15-year-old daughter who is a minor and an alleged victim of sexual assault.

Sara’s been patient, but her patience is wearing thin.

“My daughter’s victim rights have been violated,” said Sara.

The Sauk County mom says her 15-year-old daughter is still waiting for her sexual assault case to go to trial after charges were filed three and a half years ago.

“Now we are stuck in this court process that seems like it’s never going to end.”

The right to remain silent, the right to a speedy trial; many Americans learned these rights that protect a person accused of a crime back in elementary school. Just last year in Wisconsin, a new state law was enacted aimed at protecting crime victims. It’s called Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law strengthens existing victim rights like the right to privacy, to speak in front of a judge, and the right to “timely disposition without unreasonable delays” among other things. The law makes victim rights uniform statewide. And if Marsy’s Law is not followed, there are legal consequences.

“I do think that will start to change things,” said UW Madison Law Professor Ryan Poe-Gavlinski.

Poe-Gavlinski says because it’s so new and was enacted during the pandemic, there’s still uncertainty around how the law will actually be used in court.

“We don’t know how that’s going to go. Is it going to cause more delays? Will it cause faster trials that don’t have outcomes people don’t want to see? I’m not sure how many attorneys will be practicing in the victim rights realm,” said Poe-Gavlinski.

Uncertainty aside, Poe-Gavlinski says Marsy’s Law is a win for victims.

“I think it’s time to talk about how our victims are being treated and how they’re going through the process. It’s the elephant in the room we don’t talk about. I don’t know if Marsy’s Law is enough, but it’s a step. It’s a step we didn’t have before, so I say we’ll take it,” said Poe-Gavlinski.

Marsy’s Law does have its critics though. Opponents of the law warned the amendment would devastate defendants’ rights and further overburden the criminal justice system, that’s according to six lawyers.

Three and a half years waiting and one new law in the books, Sara and her daughter are still practicing patience.

“She wants justice; she wants closure. She wants this to be over with already,” said Sara.

If you’re a victim of a crime in a similar situation, Poe-Gavlinski recommends hiring a victim rights lawyer who is familiar with Marsy’s Law. Poe-Gavlinski is exploring starting a victim rights clinic with law students and the University of Wisconsin to add future victim rights lawyers to the workforce.

clarification: The original version credited the Wisconsin Bar Association for the article about Marsy's Law critics. It has since been changed to be attributed to the six lawyers who wrote it.

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