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Proposals for a constitutional amendment to provide rights for victims of crime : hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.J. Res. 173 and H.J. Res. 174 ... July 11, 1996 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JProposals for a constitutional amendment to provide rights for victims of crime : hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.J. Res. 173 and H.J. Res. 174 ... July 11, 1996 → online text (page 3 of 24)
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amendment, which has been distributed to the committee.

In preparing this revised amendment, we have worked closely with victims' rep-
resentatives. Professor Laurence Tribe, and the Justice Department, whose input
has been very helpful.

As President Clinton said, "Change [the Constitution] lightly and you risk its dis-
tinction. But never change it and you risk its vitality."

The victim's rights ought to be as fundamental as those of the accused. For all
of the victims who have suffered, I believe we can change the future with this
amendment, and ensure that they are not victimized a second time by the judicial
system, but, rather, accorded the honor and respect which they deserve.

Mr. Hyde. I thank you, Senator. Without objection, the full state-
ments of Senator Kyi and Senator Feinstein will be made a part
of the record.

Congressman Royce, would you mind withholding so Congress-
man Conyers could make an opening statement?

Mr. Royce. No.

Mr. Conyers. Mr. Chairman, I just wanted to say good morning
to all my friends here, Jon Kyi, Senator Feinstein. With that, I'll
wait until they have finished and then I'll make my opening state-
ment.



17

Mr. Hyde. Very well. Finally, we have Congressman Ed Royce,
who represents the 39th District of California. Congressman Royce
was the first Member of the House to sign on as a cosponsor of our
proposed amendment, and is a longtime advocate of victims rights,
dating back to when he was a valuable member of the California
Legislature.

Congressman Royce.

STATEMENT OF HON. EDWARD R. ROYCE, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA

Mr. Royce. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When President Reagan's
Task Force on Victims of Crime reported in 1982 that the innocent
victims of crime have been overlooked, they were not telling us
anything that millions of Americans didn't already know. Those
millions of Americans are the victims of crime, the law abiding citi-
zens who are so often victimized twice. First by the criminal, and
next by the system.

For years, we saw a liberal judiciary expand the rights of
lawbreakers and ignore the pain and suffering of crime victims.
They created a legal system so out of balance, so tilted toward the
rights of the accused, that millions of Americans have lost faith
and hope that things will ever be turned around.

I am here to tell you today that we can turn things around, and
to ask you to look at what we accomplished in California, as basi-
cally a blueprint. In 1982, we passed proposition 8, the victims bill
of rights, to give victims the right to restitution and the right to
testity at sentencing, probation and parole hearings.

In 1990, we passed proposition 115, the Crime Victims Speedy
Trial Act, a measure I authored on behalf of crime victims through-
out the State, and considered by many, the most sweeping reform
of criminal justice ever attempted in the United States. Among
other things, it established in the State constitution, the right of
a victim to a speedy trial.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Tony Rackauckas, with
whom I worked on Proposition 115 and numerous other victims
rights bills, explained the impact of the speedy trial provision of
the proposition in this way. "Giving the people their right to a
speedy trial is an important part of any program to ensure fair
treatment in court for the victims of crime. Clearly, the slower a
case moves through the court, the greater is the agony for the un-
happy victim."

The speedy trial provision of the proposition 115 has been an im-
portant part of the greater progress we have made in Orange
County toward swift justice. The judge writes that "prior to its en-
actment, the criminal justice system seemed hopelessly bogged
down." Now we are moving, he says, "criminal defendants through
at a much faster pace. Seventy percent of all felonies filed in the
county are being disposed of in the municipal courts within a few
weeks of the time of filing. Of the 30 percent remaining, most are
disposed of within 90 days of their arrival in superior court." This,
he says, "is a drastic reduction in the amount of time it takes to
complete a criminal case."

Lastly, in 1994, we passed in California, the three-strikes-and-
you're-out initiative, a law which today is protecting victims by



18

keeping repeat felons off the streets permanently. Unfortunately,
we had to take each of these measures to the people directly, be-
cause the State legislature refused to act even in the face of cases
like that of Orange County resident, and now mayor of San Juan
Capistrano, Collene Campbell.

In this case, her only son was murdered exactly 14 years ago.
The trial and retrial of ner son's killers lasted seven years and four
months. During that time, she and her husband were removed
from the courtroom. They had to sit outside for that whole period
of time, while inside the family and friends of the accused were al-
lowed to follow the trial.

Even worse, the Campbells were not notified by the authorities
that their son's killers had managed to appeal successfully against
their original sentences. They discovered that horrifying truth only
when a family friend informed them. Not only have the Campbells
had to endure the loss of a beloved son, but also the agony of not
knowing where the son's body had been discarded. They could not
attend the hearing. She says, 'Tou know, we who have lived
through the torture of being crime victims are simply asking to
have the same level of constitutional rights as the criminal, no
more, no less. That seems fair, doesn't it?"

Well that's one of the things this initiative would do. The bottom
line is that victims rights will simply not be adequately protected
until we make this change at the national level. This bill of rights
is intended to give the victims and their families a voice with
which they can present their views in the courtroom. Basically a
proper chance to raise objections to perhaps a plea agreement. It
is not a means for the victims to obstruct proceedings.

Mr. Chairman, let it not be said that Congress refused to act.
That it has relegated victims of crime to a second class status. I
urge you to tip the scales of justice back toward those Americans
who choose to obey our laws, not break them, to those who through
no fault of their own have found themselves victimized and now
face a bewildering and too often uncaring justice system.

All the citizens of California are better off today, because we
chose to amend our constitution and laws to establish specific
rights and protection for crime victims. It's time, in fact it's past
time, that we did the same thing here in Congress. I want to thank
you again, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Royce follows:]

Prepared Statement of Hon. Edward R. Royce, a Representative in Congress
From the State of Caufornia

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, when President Reagan's Task Force on Victims of
Crime reported in 1982 that the "innocent victims of crime have been overlooked" —
they were not telling us anything that millions of Americans didn't already know.

They were and are the victims of crime — the law-abiding citizens who are so often
victimized twice — first by the criminal and next by the system.

For years we saw a liberal judiciary expand the "rights" of lawbreakers and ignore
the pain and suffering of crime victims. They created a legal system so out of bal-
ance — so tilted towards the rights of the accused — that millions of Americans have
lost faith and hope that things will ever be turned around.

I'm here to tell you today that we can turn things around. And to ask you to look
at what we accomplished in California.

In 1982 we passed Proposition 8 — the Victims' Bill of Rights — to give victims the
right to restitution and the right to testify at sentencing, probation and parole hear-
ings.



19

In 1990 we passed Proposition 115 — the Crime Victims' Speedy Trial Act — a
measure I authored on behalf of crime victims throughout the state and considered
by many the most sweeping reform of criminal justice laws ever attempted in the
United States. Among otner things, it established in the State Constitution the right
of crime victims to a speedy trial.

Orange County Superior Court Judge, Tony Rackauckas, with whom I worked on
Proposition 115 and numerous other victims' rights bills, explained the impact of the
speedy trial provision of Proposition 115 in this way: "Giving the people their right
to a speedy trial is an important part of any program to ensure fair treatment in
court for the victims of crime. Clearly, the slower a case moves through court, the
greater is the agony of the unhappy victim. The speedy trial provision of Proposition
115 has been an important part of the greater progress we have made in Orange
County towards swifter justice. Prior to its enactment, the criminal justice system
seemed hopelessly bogged down. Now, we are moving criminal defendants through
at a much faster pace. About seventy percent of all felonies filed in Orange County
are being disposed of in the municipal courts within a few weeks of the time of fil-
ing. Of the thirty percent remaining, most are disposed of within ninety days of
their arrival in superior court. Less than ten percent of the felonies filed are pend-
ing longer than six months in superior court in Orange County. This is a drastic
reduction in the amount of time it takes to complete a criminal case."

And in 1994 we passed the 3— Strikes and You're Out Initiative — a law which
today is protecting victims by keeping repeat felons off the streets — permanently.

Unfortunately, we had to take each of these measures to the people directly be-
cause the state legislature refused to act even in the face of cases like that of Or-
ange County resident and Mayor of San Juan Capistrano, Collene Campbell, whose
only son, Scott, was murdered exactly fourteen years ago. The trial and retrial of
her son's killers lasted over seven years and nine months during which Mrs. Camp-
bell and her husband were not permitted to be present. In fact, they were forced
to remain outside the court rooms while the family and friends of the accused were
able to follow the trial inside the court room.

Even worse, the Campbells were not notified by the authorities that their son's
killers had managed to appeal successfully against their original sentences. They
discovered the horrifying truth only when a family friend informed them. Not only
have the Campbells had to endure the loss of a beloved son but also the agony of
not knowing where the son's body had been discarded.

As Collene explains: "my nightmares include the question of how our son actually
met his death . . . Don t tell me it is too much to ask that victims are simply al-
lowed to attend criminal proceedings . . . We who have lived through the torture
of being crime victims . . . are simply asking to have the same level of constitu-
tional rights as the criminal ... No more — no less, that's seems fair, doesn't it?"

Tragically Mrs. Campbell later suffered a further loss, this time of her brother,
auto racer, Mickey Thompson, who was murdered with his wife.

The bottom line is that victims' rights will simply not be adequately protected
until we make this change at the national level. We can't piecemeal this . . . even
if all 50 states passed victims' rights laws, they are interpreted by the courts under
circumstances where they are trumped by asserted rights of criminal defendants
under the federal constitution. That is why an amendment to the U.S. Constitution
to protect the rights of crime victims is absolutely necessary.

This bill of rights is intended to give the victims and their families a "voice" with
which they can present their views in the court room. Basically, a proper chance
to raise objections to perhaps a plea agreement. It is not a means for the victims
to obstruct proceedings.

Mr. Chairman, let it not be said that Congress refused to act . . . that it has
relegated victims of crime to a second class status. I urge you to tip the scales of
justice back towards those Americans who choose to obey our laws, no break them —
to those, who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves victimized and
now face a bewildering and too often uncaring justice system.

All the citizens of California are better off today because we choose to amend our
Constitution and laws to establish specific rights and protection for crime victims.

Its time — in fact its past time — that we did the same thing here in Congress.

Thank You.

Mr. Hyde. Thank you, ConCTessman Royce. Without objection,
your full statement will be made a part of the record. Because the
three of you have other pressing matters at 10, we will not ques-
tion you, but we will solicit your continued cooperation in the evo-
lution of this important amendment. Thank you so much.



20

Congressman Conyers, would you care to make a statement now?

Mr. Co^fYERS. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I, like you,
come to this hearing with the determination to give as much sup-
port as we can to the victims of crime. There's no category of indi-
viduals in our criminal justice system more deserving of our special
attention and protection. They are victimized not only by the acts
of violence, but they are in a sense, victimized a second time by an
often uncaring and insensitive criminal justice system.

So what I would hope that we would do is develop a method for
helping these persons as much as we can. I think that this Com-
mittee on the Judiciary is in much agreement about this objective,
both Democrats and Republicans. It is much like the church arson
legislation in a sense. I draw some parallels to it, that we all are
in agreement. But we have to look carefully at the proposal before
us.

Let us not forget that in the 1994 crime bill, under the leader-
ship of this committee, there were involved and contained therein,
critical statutory provisions for victims, provisions dealing with
compensation, notification, and victim participation. So the victim
rights that are proposed in the amendment before us are critical.

I believe in these rights. There are six of them. I think that we
should do everything that we can to pass them into law. Now how
do we go about doing that? That is not a simple question.

In church burning, in arson against churches, it was a simple
matter of strengthening the existing law in several fundamental
ways. But when we look at these victims rights, a different picture
appears. The victims right to the presence in the courtroom, the
victims right to participation in the various stages of the criminal
iustice process, the victims right to notification of parole, early re-
lease, or escape. The victims right to compensation, the victims
rights for protection from physical harm by the defendants, and the
victims rights to a timely resolution of the matter.

It seems those are the outline under which we are now proposing
a constitutional amendment. That is very important. Whenever we
approach the Constitution, it is never easy. After a couple hundred
years, there are some precedents. There are some ramifications.
There are some overlapping. So I begin this journey, recognizing
that it's rather late in the season to be contemplating a constitu-
tional amendment, but here we are and here it is. So I'm pleased
to be with you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. I
look forward to the witnesses testimony.

Mr. Hyde. Thank you, Mr. Conyers.

The next panel consists of three prominent victims' rights advo-
cates. First we have one of the founding mothers of the victims'
rights movement, Mrs. Roberta Roper. In April 1982, Mrs. Roper's
daughter Stephanie was kidnapped, brutally raped, tortured and
murdered. Her two murderers received sentences that would have
allowed them parole eligibility in less than 12 years. As a result
of her experience, she founded the Stephanie Roper Committee and
Foundation, of which she is the director. She is very active in vic-
tims' rights activities in Maryland.

Next we have Ms. Christine Long-Wagner. In 1988, Ms. Long-
Wagner was raped when a serial criminal known as the Grandview
rapist broke into her home while she slept. As a result of that hor-



21

rible experience, Ms. Long- Wagner became active in victims' rights
activities in Ohio. She is now the chairperson of the Victims' Rights
Committee of the Law Enforcement Alhance of America.

Finally, we have Mr. Chet Hodgin. Two of Mr. Hodgin's sons
were murdered in unrelated incidents in 1991 and 1992. The first
son was killed by a disgruntled employee whom the son had fired.
The second son was killed by a robber while delivering pizzas. As
a result of his experience, Mr. Hodgin has become active in helping
victims in North Carolina, and is currently the State vice president
of the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network.

We welcome all of you here today. We really appreciate your
being here. We look forward to your testimony.

Mrs. Roper.

STATEMENT OF ROBERTA ROPER, DIRECTOR, STEPHANIE
ROPER COMMITTEE AND FOUNDATION, INC.

Mrs. Roper. Grood morning. Thank you, Chairman Hyde, and
members of the committee. In addition to directing the organiza-
tion that bears our slain daughter's name, I also cochair the Na-
tional Victims' Constitutional Amendment Network. I am honored
this morning to speak in support of a constitutional amendment for
crime victims' rights, on behalf of 43 million Americans who were
victims of crime this past year.

I believe the experience of families like mine, clearly demonstrate
the need to alter our Constitution to protect crime victims' rights
for all times. Fourteen years ago, when our daughter Stephanie
was kidnapped, raped and murdered, our family learned firsthand
that equal justice under law didn't extend to a crime victim's fam-
ily. As trusting citizens, we expected to be fully informed, to be
present at trial, to be heard at sentencing. To our horror instead,
we were excluded fi*om the trial, the most important event of our
lives, and at sentencing, denied the right to provide a victim impact
statement.

As parents, my husband and I struggled to preserve our family
of four surviving children. For them, the American dream was
shattered. Everything they believed in, respected, was all but de-
stroyed. Working over the years to assist other victims in families
has been a major part of our survival and healing.

Since 1982, we have directed an advocacy and assistance organi-
zation that is considered one of the most effective voices for victims
in our nation. Consequently, we have seen enormous progress in
the State of Maryland that has resulted in the passage of 44 laws,
including a State constitutional amendment for victims. However,
despite that progress, sadly today, those rights remain paper prom-
ises. For too many victims, the criminal justice system remains
more criminal than just.

As you know, the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime
first introduced and recommended a constitutional amendment in
its final report in December 1982. The task force concluded that
the American criminal justice system's treatment of crime victims
was a national disgrace. That too often, victims were treated like
pieces of evidence used and then thrown away. They recommended
that to restore an essential balance that was missing the U.S. Con-
stitution would have to be amended to identify and to protect cer-



22

tain rights for crime victims, rights that would not diminish those
of an accused or convicted person, but would offer them the same
protection.

The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of our land. It sur-
rounds a convicted or an accused person with many protections,
and rightly so. But in regard to victims, it is silent. Until our Fed-
eral Constitution is altered to balance this inequity, victims will al-
ways be treated like second class citizens.

Every day, I, as an advocate deal with individuals, families and
survivors; individuals like Mrs. Teresa Baker, who is here today.
Teresa's only son was murdered. When her son's killer plead guilty
to second degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years, no one ex-
plained to Mrs. Baker that under the terms of this plea agreement,
her son's killer would be reconsidered and released in less than
three years. Mrs. Baker came upon this information by chance.
Even though she had fulfilled her obligation to receive victim noti-
fication, she came upon this by chance. And as painful as that dis-
covery was, her comment was, "Why didn't someone tell me the
truth?"

Recently in a triple homicide case in Maryland, the survivors of
crime victims had good reason to question the effectiveness of
Maryland's crime victims' laws at the sentencing of their loved ones
killer. Despite the existence of a statute, requiring the preparation,
acceptance, and consideration of a victim impact statement at sen-
tencing, the judge refused to accept them.

Clearly, if we are going to preserve a criminal justice system that
protects all of us, we should not reinjure those for whom the sys-
tem is most dependent upon. Those victims, at a minimum, deserve
the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard. We should
never forget that while the State may be the legal victim, the State
is not kidnapped, is not raped, does not bleed or die. Victims suffer
those consequences.

Critics tell us that we should not tinker with our Constitution.
We would agree that constitutions should be amended only for the
most serious reasons. But I ask you to remember the wisdom of our
Founding Fathers. They were creating a more perfect union, not a
perfect one. They recognized that institutions and laws would re-
quire the flexibility to change to meet the needs of an evolving soci-
ety. If that were not so, black American citizens would still be
someone's property, and women would be deprived of the right to
vote. The whole history of our nation has taught us that basic
human rights must be contained in our fundamental law, our Con-
stitution.

Other critics say that this amendment will cause an overwhelm-
ing burden to the State. The truth is, there is no evidence that a
phone call or a letter will cause overwhelming financial losses or
costs or delays. The truth is, that as a Nation, we spend millions
for criminals, and pennies for victims. The reality is that the ma-
jority of the States and the Federal Government have created crime
victims' funds based on convicted offender fines to provide for the
delivery of victims' services.

But finally, the cruelest and most undeserved opposition is voiced
by critics who say that by allowing victims to be heard at sentenc-
ing, we are going to inject irrelevant emotion and create classes of



23

victims. This is blatantly untrue. This is not about the character
of a victim, but the consequences of a crime that someone has cho-
sen to inflict. If my daughter had been a prostitute or a homeless
person, she had the right to be free from violence.

This is about the consequences. When victims bring information
to a sentencing court or to a post-conviction proceeding, they are
bringing a voice, not a mandate or a veto. The system retains the
discretion to decide the value of that information and to accept or
reject it. But clearly, every crime and its consequences are dif-
ferent.

In conclusion, I ask you to listen to the voices of our people. Ask
the American people how they would wish to be treated if they
were to become victims of violent crime. In 1994, the people of
Maryland responded to our constitutional amendment with an
overwhelming vote of 92.5 percent. I am confident that your con-
stituents will tell you that it is time to alter the U.S. Constitution
to protect crime victims' rights for all times.

We must remember that the Constitution belongs to the people.
When the people enter into a social contract with Government, at
a minimum, we expect protection. But when that protection fails,
we also expect justice and fairness, even for crime victims. Thank
you.

[The prepared statement of Mrs. Roper follows:]

Prepared Statement of Robert Roper, Director, Stephanie Roper Committee

AND Foundation, Inc.

My name is Roberta Roper. I am director of the Stephanie Roper Committee and
Foundation, Inc., a Maryland crime victims' group bearing our slain daughter's
name. I also co-chair the National Victims' Constitutional Amendment Network. I
am honored to speak in support of H.J. Res. 174, a Constitutional Amendment for



Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JProposals for a constitutional amendment to provide rights for victims of crime : hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session, on H.J. Res. 173 and H.J. Res. 174 ... July 11, 1996 → online text (page 3 of 24)