Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said amending the state constitution to strengthen the rights of crime victims would even the playing field between victims and defendants.
Schimel, who appeared Sunday on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” is backing Marsy’s Law, a nationwide movement to elevate victims’ rights to state constitutions. The law is named for Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a young California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.
“What we’re looking to do is move the statutory rights into the constitution, and it better evens the playing field,” Schimel said on the show, produced in partnership with WisPolitics.com.
“It’s never going to be perfectly even, because in a criminal courtroom the defendant’s right to fair trial, his constitutional rights, will always have an edge over the victim’s rights. But this moves them closer to even,” he said.
The law would strengthen the rights of victims in the areas of restitution, information and notification. Schimel offered an example of how Marsy’s Law would work in bail hearings for defendants. Victims currently don’t have the right to be heard at a defendant’s bail hearing, he said, but under Marsy’s Law they would.
“The judge sees the defendant’s face at every single court appearance,” Schimel said. “As a prosecutor for a long time, I think it’s a good thing that the court sees the face of the victim more often.”
Gousha asked about concerns raised in other states that the law would lead to delays in the criminal justice system, or unforeseen consequences. Schimel said he disagreed with that.
“If we want crime victims to come forward and be part of the system, and we need them if we’re going to hold offenders accountable and make our communities safe, we need crime victims to participate in the system. If we want them to do that, they need to perceive the system as not stacked against them,” he said.
Gousha also asked Schimel about the state crime lab’s progress in testing old rape kits, and in a web extra, he asked Schimel about the fight against heroin and opioid abuse and addiction.
Also on the program, a newly elected member of the Milwaukee Public Schools Board said the Emerge Wisconsin program helped teach her how to campaign and win elections.
Paula Phillips of Milwaukee was elected to the MPS board last Tuesday. She is currently attending the Emerge Wisconsin program, which helps elect progressive and Democratic women to public office by teaching them campaign fundamentals.
In the April 4 elections, 16 women who had attended or are currently attending the Emerge Wisconsin program ran for local, non-partisan offices around the state. Fourteen of those 16 women won seats.
“I think what makes Emerge unique is that is does focus on women,” Phillips said.
She said the program is “helping women build confidence so that when you’re going through a grueling campaign you know what your story is, why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then you have this amazing support system while you’re doing it.”
In another segment, the president and CEO of the Waukesha County Business Alliance urged Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers to reconsider funding for work on the Interstate 94 east-west corridor in Milwaukee.
Suzanne Kelley said the corridor “is a major thoroughfare for commerce in our region.”
Walker eliminated money for corridor planning and work in his most recent budget plan, now before the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
“Our business leaders in Waukesha County are telling us that a modern, efficient transportation system is critical to their businesses,” Kelley said.
She said 21,000 businesses, more than 300,000 jobs, and some 500,000 people are within a 3-mile radius of the corridor, which is a 3-mile section of I-94 between the Marquette and Zoo interchanges.
“The best approach from our standpoint would be to find a comprehensive solution that combines a long-term transportation strategy with appropriate funding for the highest priorities,” she said.
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