Proposal to put victim's rights in state constitution clears Constitutional Revision Commission committee

Published: Jan. 19, 2018 at 4:18 PM EST
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

January 19, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- A proposal to put victim's rights in the state constitution cleared a committee of the Constitutional Revision Commission this morning, but defense lawyers worry it could lead to more innocent people going to prison.

Mike Liles' wife was murdered in a home invasion last year.

"I came home and found my wife beaten to death on the floor of our kitchen," he said.

Since then, he's been dealing with a lengthy legal process in an attempt to convict the man accused of killing his wife. It's a process, he says, that isn't sensitive to victims.

"It's a frustrating system to follow," Liles continues. "It's a frustrating system to understand and you never know exactly what rights you do have."

A proposed ballot measure moving through the CRC, known as Marsy's Law, aims to help people like Liles and it would guarantee a set of victim's rights in the state constitution.

"They ought to have rights as well,' said CRC commissioner Don Gaetz. "They ought to have prerogatives. They ought to have the opportunity to have their voice heard."

Lawyers say because the proposal allows victims to refuse giving a deposition to the defense team, it could lead to more innocent people being convicted.

"The ability to question a witness and a victim under oath prior to a trial is paramount to be able to test the credibility of their allegations," said Stacy Scott, a public defender in the 8th Judicial Circuit. "And to advise our clients about whether proceeding forward with a trial is a good idea or not."

CRC commissioner Timothy Cerio is the sponsor of the proposal, and says when it comes to victim depositions, Florida is the outlier.

"We are one of only five states in the union that havve depositions for victims," he said. "45 other states don't allow it."

Florida is among just 15 states that don't guarantee victim's rights in their state constitution.

It'll be several months before the full CRC decides if Marsy's Law should be on the November ballot. If it makes it on the ballot, it would need 60 percent of voters to approve it to become part of the constitution.