Marsy's Law at Work in Green County

It’s been about eight months since Wisconsin’s new crime victims’ constitutional amendment went into effect after being overwhelmingly approved by Wisconsin voters last April. In that short time, Wisconsin has already seen numerous examples of Marsy’s Law at work in the criminal justice system, where the amendment is giving victims a stronger voice, and bringing them to the forefront of the legal process.

The latest example of the impact of the new crime victims’ constitutional amendment was on display in recent weeks in the midst of an unspeakable tragedy unfolding in Green County. A 16-year-old boy shot his four-day-old baby girl in the head twice and buried her in the snow in a rural area in southern Wisconsin. You can see some of the coverage of this horrific case here.

The young father was quickly arrested and he admitted to the crime. At his bail hearing, the baby’s maternal grandmother asked to be heard so she could petition the court to keep the accused in custody for the safety of her family. The defense attorney initially objected. But, the prosecutor made clear that as a family member of a deceased victim, the grandmother had the right to be heard. Had this hearing taken place prior to Marsy’s Law going into effect in Wisconsin she would not have had the right to speak at a bail hearing. The case is ongoing, and a preliminary hearing took place this week. Under Marsy’s Law, the victim’s family will have the right to be heard in any proceeding in the case during which a right of the victim is implicated, including plea and sentencing hearings.

Sadly, we live in a world where terrible tragedies such as these happen far too often. While we hope and pray for less violence, we are grateful for the knowledge that even in the worst of times Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin gives a strong voice to those suffering through even the unspeakable. It is heartening to see the positive impact that the new amendment is already having for crime victims, and we know there will be many more examples of Marsy’s Law at work in Wisconsin.