ICYMI: Wisconsin Public Radio Discusses Marsy’s Law on Route 51
Marathon County Circuit Judge Mike Moran and Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon discuss the impact of the new crime victims’ constitutional amendment
MADISON – In case you missed it, Route 51 host Shereen Siewert recently welcomed Marathon County Circuit Judge Mike Moran and Marathon County District Attorney Theresa Wetzsteon for a discussion on Wisconsin Public Radio about the impacts of Wisconsin’s recently adopted crime victims’ rights constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law, and the resulting changes in Wisconsin courtrooms.
You can listen to the interview here, or read key highlights from the interview quoted below:
Wisconsin Public Radio, Route 51
June 12, 2020
“Wisconsin really was a leader in victims’ rights already, but certainly the constitutional amendment has elevated that in Wisconsin and caused us in the criminal justice system really to think of the victims at every point in the system, and be very conscious about that, and I do think that’s a positive.” – District Attorney Wetzsteon
“I really have felt that Wisconsin has been very strong, and Marathon County certainly has been very strong regarding victims’ rights. This just codifies a lot of the things that I think that we were doing, plus adds a lot more requirements that are positive for victims—having a say, or to be able to opt into court appearances, to make sure there are court hearings, to make sure their voices are heard.” - Judge Moran
“Due process is to be able to have your rights in court—that somebody doesn’t deny you your constitutional rights, deny you the rights that you have under the statutes, under the case law. It really is to ensure fairness in court, is how I view it. We have a constitution that has a bill of rights. The bill of rights talks about all the different rights that defendants have. What this law has done is essentially afforded or given—extended I guess would be the better word—some of those rights to victims of crimes… it’s not statutory, it’s a constitutional right, which means it has the effect and the backing of a constitutional amendment… it’s a violation of the constitution if those rights are not followed.” - Judge Moran
“I think the right to due process really emphasizes the right to be meaningfully heard…to be meaningfully heard in the court of law with the court being the listener is really heightened by this constitutional amendment…So we now are very cognizant in every hearing that we do. First of all, we are transitioning to virtually all hearings with victims of crimes, whether or not they’ve opted in under rights under the current statutory scheme, we now have the court proceedings on the record, so there is an opportunity for a victim at any point in time to opt in and participate in the hearing and be meaningfully heard on issues that implicate their rights.” – District Attorney Wetzsteon
“What this law has done has really brought victims’ rights to the forefront at every stage of the process. So one thing that really has changed is, these rights are effective at the point of victimization. So there is a conscious effort now for law enforcement and our office to notify victims of the bond hearing for example… that court hearings aren’t, and scheduling isn’t taking place in victim crimes outside the courtroom, that’s a very big change. That there is input in scheduling, that’s a very big change. So to the extent that at every stage now in the process of a victim crime, they are—victims are—taken into consideration, you’re right, that is a change.” – District Attorney Wetzsteon
“It all goes back to what this law is all about, which is treating victims at every stage of this process with fairness, dignity, and respect. And if you’re doing that—or we’re doing it to the best of our ability—that should be honored already, protecting the victim from the offender. Whether it be a physical barrier by being in a different room, or not being harassed, or not violating no contact provisions… that protection I think is an important one, and this process is very tough for victims. It is a lengthy process, often it’s full of delays and frustrations and we definitely want to have that protection for victims and they feel like they can count on that. ” – District Attorney Wetzsteon
Listen to the full interview from Wisconsin Public Radio here.
About Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin
Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is a grassroots coalition that championed a unique proposal to give victims of crime equal rights in our state, building on Wisconsin’s laws and history of leading on this issue. The crime victims’ rights state constitutional amendment, also known as Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin, was ratified during the April 7, 2020 election with an overwhelming 75 percent of voters in support. Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights.
Victims and supporters interested in sharing their stories can email Wisconsin@marsyslaw.us.