Cumberland Times-News

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April 27, 2013

Representatives seek Victims’ Rights Amendment

Proposed measure aims to protect injured parties from ‘roll-of-the-dice’ criminal justice system

WASHINGTON — Victims of crimes are treated by the U.S. “roll-of-the-dice” criminal justice system as pawns, dogs and second-class citizens, advocates said at a news conference Thursday to introduce a proposed Victims’ Rights Amendment.

Sponsored by Reps. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., Jim Costa, D-Calif., and Ed Royce, R-Calif., the amendment would provide crime victims with the right to be heard at any release, plea or sentencing and require they receive “reasonable” notice of public proceedings and the release of the accused.

The proposed amendment defines crime victim as “any person against whom the criminal offense is committed or who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of an act, which, if committed by a competent adult, would constitute a crime.”

For Colleen Campbell, a former California mayor and adviser to the National Organization for Victims’ Assistance whose 27-year-old son was strangled and thrown into the Pacific Ocean, the amendment is about restoring dignity for victims’ families and equality in court proceedings.

“We were excluded,” Campbell said, recalling the experience of the three murder trials in which the courts granted the request to excuse her family from the courtroom.

“We were sitting in the hall like dogs with fleas there every day and told we can’t come in, while the killers’ families were escorted into the reserve seats,” she said.

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