This year has brought a number of challenges and changes to the Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office in navigating the myriad of issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, but one thing has remained the same — ensuring that crime victims are treated with dignity and respect and that their voices are heard throughout the legal process.
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment, also known as Marsy’s Law, I am reminded of my commitment and the commitment of my fellow prosecutors to honor our responsibility to stand for victims and their rights.
Marsy’s Law was first introduced to Pennsylvanians on the ballot in 2019 and earned a 74 percent approval from the voters. Despite overwhelming support, Marsy’s Law has not yet been implemented in Pennsylvania and is mired in unnecessary and frivolous litigation. As a result, Marsy’s Law and the rights of crime victims across the Commonwealth have been unfairly tied up in the court system and victims continue to suffer.
Sadly, as we all intuitively understand, crime knows no boundaries and victim’s come from all walks of life, socioeconomic backgrounds and creeds – and consequently, victims are thrown into the criminal justice system, oftentimes traumatized and with little or no knowledge of the system itself.
If enacted, Marsy’s Law will elevate victims’ rights to the state constitution and will provide enforceable accountability for victims whose rights are violated through the legal process. Marsy’s Law will guarantee that victims have a voice.
Regardless, my office and the many district attorney offices throughout Pennsylvania have continued to ensure that victims are treated fairly throughout the legal process and we will continue to stand for victims no matter the political landscape that stands against us. However, across the Commonwealth, not all victims are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.
Without the certainty of a constitutional amendment, victims can be ignored and their rights can be trampled on without recourse. And just like that, a victim becomes a victim again — but this time, the assailant is the justice system.
We cannot allow this to continue to be the case, and that is why I support Marsy’s Law. Marsy’s Law provides blanket coverage across the state for crime victims and reinforces the fact that every crime victim deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.
As we close out this tumultuous year, I stand ready to continue my work in ensuring the rights of crime victims in Lawrence County. I trust that my fellow district attorneys throughout the Commonwealth are vigilant in their same commitment to the many victims of crime that we encounter. While we cannot predict the future of state politics, we must make sure that it is a priority in the days ahead to provide crime victims with a voice.