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United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

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 4 of 24)
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crime victims' rights on behalf of forty-three million Americans who became victims
of crime this past year.

I believe that the experiences of families like mine clearly demonstrate the need
to alter our constitution to protect crime victims' rights for all time.

Fourteen years ago, when our daughter Stephanie was kidnapped, raped and
murdered, our family learned first hand that equal justice under law did not extend
to a crime victim's family. As trusting, law-abiding citizens, we expected to be kept
informed of all proceedings, to be present at trial and to be heard at sentencing.
Instead to our horror, we were excluded from the trial, which was the most impor-
tant event in our lives, and were denied the right to provide an impact state-
ment at sentencing. "One person can make a difference and every person should
try . . ."

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 was challenged and all but destroyed. Over the years, working to support and
assist other victims and families, and to improve the criminal justice system has
been a major part of our survival.

Since 1982, we have led a Maryland advocacy and assistance organization that
is considered one of the most efTective voices for victims in our nation. We have seen

Seat progress in our state, and our efTorts have resulted in the passage of forty-
ur laws including a state constitutional amendment for crime victims' rights. Yet
sadly today, those rights largely remain "paper promises." For too many victims and
families, the criminal justice system remains more criminal than just when it comes
to protecting their rights. Consequently, the proposed federal amendment, is for
them, an issue whose time has come.

The President's Task Force on Victims of Crime first recommended a constitu-
tional amendment in its final report in December, 1982. The Task Force concluded
that the American criminal justice system's treatment of victims was a national dis-
grace . . . victims too often were treated like "pieces of evidence" . . . used and
then thrown away. They recognized that in oraer to restore an essential balance
that was missing, the United State's Constitution would have to be amended to



24

identify and protect certain rights of crime victims . . . rights that would not di-
minish those of an accused or convicted person, but would share equal protection
of the law.

The United State's Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It surrounds an
accused person with numerous protected rights, and ri^tly so. However, it is silent
in regard to victims. Until a federal constitutional amendment is passed that bal-
ances the rights of a victim with those of an accused person, victims will remain
second class citizens.

Everyday, my work as an advocate brings me in contact with victims and survi-
vors in my state. Individuals like Teresa Baker, whose only son was murdered.
When her son's killer pled guilty to 2nd degree murder and was sentenced to thirty
years, no one explained that under the terms of the plea agreement the offender
would have a sentencing reconsideration and be released in less than three years!
And while Mrs. Baker fulfilled the victim's requirement to request notification, she
came upon this information by chance. As painful as that discovery was, her pri-
mary question was, "why didn't someone tell me the truth?"

Survivors of victims in a recent Maryland triple homicide case had good reason
to question Maryland's victims' rights laws at the sentencing of their loved ones'
killer. Despite a statute requiring the acceptance and consideration of written victim
impact statements at sentencing, the judge refused to accept them.

Clearly, if we are to preserve a criminal justice system that protects all of us, we
should not re-injure those whom the system is dependent upon! Victims deserve, at
a minimum, the right to be informed, present and heard at criminal justice proceed-
ings. We must never forget that while the state may be the legal victim, the state
is not kidnapped, is not rap)ed, does not bleed or die . . . people suffer these con-
sequences. Victims of these crimes deserve equal fairness ana justice.

Critics tell us that we must not "tinker" with the constitution. And we agree that
constitutions should not be amended except for the most serious reasons. We must
remember and respect the wisdom of our founding fathers. They were creating a
"more perfect union," not a perfect one. They recognized that laws and institutions
would require the ability to change to meet the needs of an evolving society. If that
were not so, black American citizens would still be someone's property, and women
would not be able to vote! The whole history of our country had taught us that basic
human rights must be protected in our fundamental law . . . our constitution.

Other critics argue that an amendment will create an overwhelming burden on
the states. The truth is that there is no evidence that the cost of a pnone call or
letter, or applying a victim's rights has created financial burdens or delays. The
truth is that our nation spends millions of dollars for criminal needs and pennies
for victims! The reality is tnat many states and the federal government have created
crime victim funds based on convicted offenders' fees to provide for the delivery of
victim services.

The crudest and most undeserved opposition is voiced by those who say that al-
lowing victims or survivors to be heara at sentencing will inject irrelevant emotion
and create classes of victims. This is not about the character of the victim, but about
the consequences of the crime that a convicted offender chose to inflict! If my daugh-
ter had been a homeless person or a prostitute, she had the right not to be violated.
The information brought by victims to sentencing courts or at post-sentencing pro-
ceedings is not a mandate or a veto, but a voice. The system retains the discretion
to decide the value of that information, and recognizes the that every crime and its
consequences are different.

I urge all of you to listen to the law-abiding citizens of our land. Ask the people
of America how they would wish to be treated if they were victims of crime. In 1994,
the people of Maryland responded with an astounding 92.5% vote of approval for
our amendment. I am confident that your constituents will tell you that it is time
to protect victims' rights for all time in the U.S. Constitution. Never before has
there been a proposea law, bipartisan in support, that could make such a significant
and positive difference in the lives of so many Americans every year. We must re-
memoer that the constitution belongs to the people. As part of our social contract
with government, the people not only expect protection, but when that protection
fails, expect fairness and justice . . . even for crime victims.

Mr. Hyde. Thank you, Mrs. Roper. Normally I intervene at the
end of five minutes when the red light goes on, but your statement
was so moving and compelling, I wanted to hear it all, as did we
all.

But I would request, respectfully, that the other panelists try to
confine. I certainly won't cut you off. But try to confine your state-



25

merits to five minutes. As we will have questions, we can bring
these other things out. Your full statements will be made a part
of the record without objection.

Ms. Long- Wagner, I did introduce you more fulsomely before, so
I won't repeat it. Ms. Long- Wagner.

STATEMENT OF CHRISTINE LONG-WAGNER, SECOND VICE
PRESIDENT, LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE OF AMERICA

Ms. Long- Wagner. Mr. Chairman, and members of the commit-
tee, I am currently the second vice president of the Law Enforce-
ment Alliance of America, which is the Nation's largest coalition of
law enforcement officers, crime victims, and citizens. I am the
chairman of the Victims' Rights Committee of LEAA. I am also the
victim of a vicious crime committed by a violent repeat serial rap-
ist. Today I speak for LEAA's more than 50,000 members, and from
the very personal perspective of what happened to me.

Very earlv one morning in August 1988, I was awakened in my
apartment oy a man, a man who 8 years before had raped two
other Ohio women. A man who spent minimal time in prison,
where at taxpayer expense, had earned a 2-year college degree and
used the prison's weightlifting equipment to become a more menac-
ing figure. The man raped me repeatedly for what in real time was
barely 1 hour, but in fact, was a lifetime.

He was apprehended after raping another Ohio women, and at-
tempting to rape two more. What that man did to me and at least
three other women was foul and obscene. What the criminal justice
system did to me after the rape was humiliating and shameful.

LEAA supports the idea that every defendant is innocent until
proven guilty. However, an equally important point needs to be ad-
dressed, the fact that each of us who bears the physical and psy-
chological scars of a violent crime also have rights. The unfortunate
truth is that today victims of crime have no Federal guarantee that
we will ever receive justice, let alone fair and equal treatment.

LEAA and the Nation's crime victims support the accused right
to confront witnesses. We also ask only that victims have a right
to confi-ont their assailants. We support the accused right to due
process and to counsel. We also ask that victims of crime be given
the right to fair and full participation in the criminal justice proc-
ess.

LEAA supports the defendant's right to free from unreasonable
searches and seizures. But we ask that crime victims be granted
the right to be free from a life of continued terror caused by the
acts of violent offenders. Let me walk you through that very violent
crime, what every violent crime victim experiences, the slow and
torturous machinery of the criminal justice system.

Rather than being a source of solace and comfort, it is often a
process of horror, often equal to that, the terror of the crime itself.
While the violent crime is over relatively quickly, the frustration,
the anger and hurt caused by the criminal justice system more con-
cerned with the rights of criminals, often lasts a lifetime.

For rape victims, one of our biggest fears is that the sexual per-
versions forced on us might literally be a death sentence through
the possibility of AIDS. The man who raped me was a known and



26

previously convicted rapist, yet he could not be made to have an
HIV test for fear of violating his rights.

My right to a life without terror meant nothing. I was excluded
from the peace of mind provided by a simple blood test. How can
anyone support this, after seeing the carnage of rape? What rea-
sonable man or woman can deny us the right to have our assail-
ants tested for HIV or AIDS after they've seen the full and brutal
violence of rape: the lacerations on some that run red and blue jag-
ged patterns across a face, a thigh or a torso; the eyes swollen gro-
tesquely shut, the beaten flesh turned to deep purple; cheek bones
crushed from heavy blows. And yet, in the name of the defendant's
right to privacy, their right against self incrimination and their
right to unreasonable search and seizures, the criminal's rights
prevail over the victim's.

Knowing the psychological torment crime victims endure in pre-
paring ourselves for the courtroom encounters, defense attorneys
often play a postponement game. They hope this psychic torment
builds to a point of unbearable pressure so the victim will surren-
der. Trust me when I say I know how painful it is to prepare for
this, only to have a trial postponed. It is absolute torture and I
imagine it works for the criminal far more often than we know.
This is very real and very painful, and is the reason why victims
need the right to a speedy trial.

As terrible as the fear of being infected with the deadly HIV
virus was, the total state of ignorance in which crime victims are
kept regarding the status of the case is equal or worse. Only days
before the man who raped me was sentenced, did I find out I was
not going to get the trial that I wanted and expected. I was told
that the man who repeatedly raped me was allowed to plea bargain
to lesser charges. He raped two women, assaulted two others, and
all of our cases were combined. He was allowed to plead guilty to
lesser charges.

I had no opportunity to voice my objections. I had only a few mo-
ments prior to sentencing to deliver a brief statement on how this
crime affected my life. Today, I am still excluded from personally
participating in his parole hearings. Had there been a trial, I would
not have been allowed to face my assailant during any trial, save
for a few moments, if and when I would be called upon as a witness
to the crime, not as the victim, but as a witness, as if I had only
glimpsed the attacker from the safety of a two story window. Other
than testifying as the witness, I would have been excluded from the
courtroom during the trial to protect his rights.

This amendment does not damage the rights of those accused of
a crime. It simply provides the crime victims to be treated fairly
and with dignity due us as human beings and citizens. It allows
the opportunity to be informed and present at proceedings involv-
ing those who have attacked us. It gives us a voice in those pro-
ceedings. It gives us the right to be informed upon the release or
escape of our attackers. It provides a basis for a right to reasonable
measures of protection and further violence or intimidation by
these violent animals.

Although there may be administrative problems or difficulties in
protecting victims' rights, I believe that they will not be any more
expensive or difficult than what we have done to protect criminals'



27

rights. After all, isn't this the real question: Don't honest citizens
victimized by predators deserve the most protection our society can
offer? Shouldn't this be the standard that our criminal justice sys-
tem is measured against?

As a representative of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America,
as a woman whose husband is a law enforcement officer, and as an
advocate for crime victims' rights, and as a crime victim myself, I
endorse this constitutional amendment. Crime victims, no matter
what State they live in, should have their rights protected. Thank
you.

[The prepared statement of Ms. Long-Wagner follows:]

Prepared Statement of Christine Long-Wagner, Second Vice President, Law
Enforcement Alliance of America

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, my name is Christine Long-Wagner.
I am from Columbus, Ohio. I am currently the 2nd Vice President and member of
the board of directors of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America, the nation's larg-
est coalition of law enforcement officers, crime victims, and citizens concerned over
the lack of real justice in our criminal justice system. I am the chairman of LEAA's
Victims' Rights Committee. I am also the victim of a vicious crime committed by
a violent repeat serial rapist.

I am here today to represent the views of LEAA'S more than 50,000 members on
the Constitutional Amendment before us. And I am here to explain the need for this
in a very personal manner.

Very early one morning in August 1988, I was awakened in my apartment by a
man. A man who eight years before had raped two Ohio women. A man who spent
minimal time in prison where, at taxpayer expense, had earned a two-year college
degree and used the prison's weight-lifting equipment to build himself into an even
more menacing figure. A man who raped me repeatedly for what in real time was
barelv an hour but in fact was a lifetime.

A few months later, he was apprehended after raping yet another Ohio woman
and attempting to rape two others. What that man did to me and at least three
other women was foul and obscene. What the criminal justice system did to me sub-
sequent to my violation by that serial rapist was humiliating and shameful. That
is why I have worked for years with LEAA to secure a crime victim's bill of rights.
That is why I am here before you today testifying on behalf of the Resolution for
a Victims' Rights Amendment.

Much has been said of every defendant's Constitutional rights. Nothing I have to
say and nothing I have read in both the House and the Senate versions of these
resolutions infringes or erodes those rights in any way.

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America and I personally respect and support
every defendant as innocent until proven guilty. However, I am here to point out
that an equally important counterpoint to that right needs to be addressed, namely
the fact that each of us who must bear thephysical and psychological scars that
result from violent crime also have rights. The unfortunate is that today, victims
of crime — from robbery to the most brutal and dehumanizing crimes — have no fed-
eral guarantee that we will ever receive justice, let alone fair and equal treatment
under the law.

LEAA and the nation's crime victims support the accused's right to confront wit-
nesses. We ask only that we, the victims, have a right to confront our assailants.
We support the accused's right to due process. We ask only that we crime victims
be afforded the right to be part of that due process including the right to a speedy
trial and the right to expect a fair sentence imposed and that the sentence imposed
upon conviction is the actual time that will be served.

We support the accused's right to counsel. We ask only that we victims of crime
be given the right to fair representation and full participation in the criminal justice
process.

We support the defendant's right to be free from unreasonable searches and sei-
zures. But we ask that we crime victims be granted the right to be free from a life
of continued terror caused by the acts of violent criminals.

Yet, today, crime victims like me have virtually no rights.

Prosecutors are entrusted with representing the public's interests, with defending
the rights of society against criminal predators. But, when push comes to shove, we
who are crime's victims are treated as if we are no longer members of the public.



28

We are treated as society's outcasts. And that is wrong, as wrong as the crimes com-
mitted against us in the first place.

Let me walk you step-by-step through what every victim of a violent crime experi-
ences once the slow and torturous machinery of the criminal justice system begins
to move. Rather than being a source of solace and comfort for crime victims, it is
often times a process of unimaginable horror oft^n the equal to the terror of the
crime itself. While the violent crime is over relatively quickly, the frustration and
anger caused by a criminal justice system more concerned with the rights of crimi-
nals often lasts a lifetime.

Despite the genuine concern expressed by law enforcement officers and emergency
medical personnel at the initial crime scene, the process of horrors every victim en-
counters at the hands of the criminal justice system begins almost from the moment
we dial 911.

For rape victims, it begins once we are able to voice our fear that the sexual per-
versions forced upon us might literally be a death sentence through the possibility
of transmission of HIV or AIDS.

I cannot believe that any judge or officer of the court can stand mute and dis-
passionate after seeing the carnage of the rape of a colleague, friend or child. What
reasonable man or woman can deny us the right to have our assailants tested for
HIV or AIDS after they've seen the full and brutal extent of the violence of rape:
the lacerations on some that run red and blue jagged patterns across a face, a thigh,
a torso; the eyes swollen grotesquely shut, the oeaten Hesh turned a deep purple;
cheekbones crushed from heavy blows; the blood and mucous that covers flesh and
torn clothing — all marks found on too many rape victims immediately after being
violated. If they miss this graphic first-hand example then they see or read the re-
ports of anal, oral, and vaginal violations of women and children by sexual deviates,
and in the name of the defendant's right to privacy, right against self-incrimination,
and right to unreasonable search and seizures, the concerns over the criminal's
rights prevail.

This known and previously convicted rapist, who raped me and others could not
be made to take an HIV test for fear of violating his rights. My right to a life free
from terror meant nothing.

I was excluded from the solace provided by a simple blood test. I was excluded
from the court's system of due process; as a crime victim, I was afforded no piece
of mind, no protection, and no resolution. I was excluded from the courtroom. I could
not face my assailant save for a few moments if and when I would be called upon
as a witness to the crime. Not as the victim. But as a witness, as if I had only
glimpsed the attacker from the safety of a two story window.

Knowing full well the extent of the psychological torment crime victims endure
in preparing ourselves for just such courtroom encounters, defense attorneys often
play a postponement game. They hope the psychic torment within crime victims
builds to a point of intolerable pressure and we will not be able to bear witness.
Trust me when I say I know how painful it is to prepare for such an occasion only
to have the trial postponed. It is absolute psychological torture. It is very real and
very painful and very much the reason why crime victims need the right to a speedy
trial.

As terrible as not knowing if I was infected with the deadly AIDS causing virus
was, the total state of ignorance in which crime victims are kept regarding the dis-
position of proceedings against our assailants is equal or worse.

In my case, eleven months after I was raped, I did not learn that the man who
assaulted me was given the opportunity to plea bargain to lesser charges until the
day of his sentencing. I had no opportunity to voice my objections. I had only a few
moments just prior to sentencing to deliver a brief statement to the judge regarding
how the crime affected my life.

Just as I was given no opportunity to participate in the system that led up to that
plea bargain agreement, I also am excluded from personally participating in future
hearings regarding his possible parole.

I would also add before closing that even the process of accessing Victim Com-
pensation Funds set aside by manv states is a cold, impersonal, and dehumanizing
experience. In my case, the state nas to conduct an investigation to determine if I
qualified for compensation for medical and psychological counseling fees resulting
from my being raped. This took nearly as long as the disposition of the case of my
assailant. And every time I incurred further expenses related to the incident I had
to reapply and endure yet another nearly year long "investigation" that retraced all
the information that was already on file with the compensation authority.

As far as the criminal justice system is concerned, my personal experience, along
with the experiences of tnousands of other victims each year, demonstrates beyond



29

the shadow of a doubt that crime victims have no place or value in the current sys-
tem except as a catalyst to put the criminal justice system into motion.

A close and careful reading of this amendment reveals no infringement of the
rights of those accused of crime. It simply asks that crime victims be treated fairly
and with the dignity due us as human beings and citizens. It allows us the oppor-
tunity to be informed of and be present at proceedings involving our assailants. It
gives a voice in those proceedings. It gives us the right to be informed upon the re-
lease or escape of our assailants. It provides statutory basis for our right to "reason-
able measures" of protection against further violence or intimidation by these vio-
lent predators.

Although there may be administrative problems or difficulties in the process of

firotecting victims' rights, I believe that they will not be any more expensive or dif-
icult than what we've done to protect crimmal's rights. And after all, isn't this the
real question: Don't honest citizens who get victimized by predators deserve the
most protection our society has to offer? And shouldn't this be the standard for our
criminal justice system?

As a representative of a law enforcement organization whose husband is a law
enforcement officer, as an advocate for crime victims' rights and as a crime victim



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 4 of 24)