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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 5 of 24)
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myself, I endorse this Constitutional Amendment and I say God bless you all for
proposing this bipartisan effort to restore the faith of our citizens in our criminal
justice system.

Mr. Hyde. Thank you, Ms. Wagner.
Mr. Hodgin,

STATEMENT OF CHET HODGIN, STATE VICE PRESIDENT,
NORTH CAROLINA VICTIM ASSISTANCE NETWORK

Mr. Hodgin. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I am
Chet Hodgin. I am a realtor in Jamestown, NC. I am here today
in support of H.J. Res. 174. The first thing I want to suggest is
that we forget H.J. Res. 173 because it is a giant step backwards
for victims.

I am a volunteer for the North Carolina Victim Assistance Net-
work. I was recently elected as State vice president. My oldest son
Keith, was the manager of a cafeteria in Asheville, NC. In May
1991, an employee that he had previously fired came to my son's
condo one night looking for revenge. My son was brutally mur-
dered. The perpetrator was tried and convicted of first degree mur-
der. In December 1992, my next oldest son, Kevin, was a pizza de-
livery man for a well-known national chain. While on the job, he
was attacked, robbed, and beaten by a gang of six teenagers. He
did not resist. He gave them his money. They continued to beat
him. As he was leaving — as they were leaving, while he still lay on
the parking lot, they shot him three times.

I have sat through three full-length first degree murder trials.
Not only was I horrified at the testimony describing how these ani-
mals could savagely murder a human being, I was appalled to see
that while our justice system went to great lengths to protect the
rights of the defendants, the victim was virtually ignored. It soon
became apparent that several factors must be present to make our
justice system function. Obviously we have to have a defendant, or
there would be no need for a trial. Also a judge, and usually a jury
must be on hand. Absolutely essential are the attorneys, both pros-
ecutor and defense. Usually there are witnesses, police officers.
When all the elements are in place, our trial can proceed and jus-
tice can be done. The one element that is nonessential to our court
of law is the victim.

Whether it is a victim of robbery, assault, rape, theft, or as in
my case, the family members of homicide victims, we are consid-



35-331 - 96 - 2



30

ered nonessential. Only when you become a victim do you realize
that we have no enforceable rights. I don't mean to imply that I
was mistreated in either Buncombe County or Guilford County,
NC. In fact, I received very good treatment from both of those dis-
trict attorneys and their assistants. But as I became more and
more active with NC-VAN, I learned that I was indeed the excep-
tion.

I received a call one night from a lady in one of our larger North
Carolina cities. Her brother had been murdered a few weeks ear-
lier. After seeing TV news stories about an arraignment hearing to
be held the following day, she called her DA's office for information.
She simply wanted to know what is an arraignment, what does it
mean, was she supposed to be present? She called her DA's office
for information. Nobody would talk to her. She finally called NC-
VAN for help and was referred to me. By the time I talked to her,
she was hysterical.

Defendants have a right to be given information about how the
criminal justice system works. Victims don't. I talked to another
lady last year who had been raped. Her assailant was sentenced to
20 years. Two years later, she was in her neighborhood grocery
store, rounded the comer and there he was. She had no idea that
he had been paroled and was out on the streets again.

A member of my own community was brutally assaulted and dis-
abled as a result. His attacker was sentenced to 20 years, but was
ehgible for parole in 2. Last fall, the defendant was scheduled for
a parole review the end of October, but it took the victim until the
end of January to find out if the parole was granted. Victims have
no right to be informed of a defendant's release from incarceration.

During the trial of one of the murderers of my son, the defense
was presenting several character witnesses to try to convince the
jury that regardless of eye witness testimony about cold blooded
murder, his client was really a nice person. Then he made a motion
that I and my family be ejected from the courtroom because our
presence might prejudice the jury. Defendants have a constitu-
tional right to be informed of, to be present, and to be heard at
criminal hearings. Victims do not. Defendants have the right to
speak at a guilty plea or sentencing hearing. Victims don't.

A witness before the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime
made this simple statement. "Why didn't anyone consult me on the
plea bargain? I was the one who was kidnapped and raped, not the
State of North Carolina." Victims have no right to be informed of
any plea negotiations.

Those of us who work as victim advocates are not trying to less-
en the rights of the accused. But victims must have equal rights
by law. The scales of justice must weigh equally for both sides.
There are literally millions of innocent victims of violent crime in
this country, people whose lives have been irreversibly altered by
acts of violence, men, women, children, families whose lives have
been ruined by the acts of criminals. This is horrible enough, but
too often they are victimized again by our judicial process. The
frustration and bitterness created for these innocent victims by the
imbalance of our justice system is inexcusable.

Twenty States have now amended their constitution to guarantee
the rights of victims of crime. People of North Carolina will have



31

this opportunity to vote next November. Now you have the oppor-
tunity to balance the scales of justice. You have the ability to guar-
antee that the rights of the victim have constitutional protection as
well as those of the accused. Please, be aware of the pain of the
innocents. Listen to the voices of these crime victims.

Today I speak to you for the millions of victims throughout our
country who cry out for justice. On behalf of all of the innocent vic-
tims of violent crime, I urge you to support a constitutional amend-
ment to guarantee our rights. Thank you.

[The prepared statement of Mr. Hodgin follows:]

Prepared Statement of Chet Hodgin, State Vice President, North Carouna
Victim Assi^ance Network

My name is Chet Hodgin and I am a Realtor in Jamestown, North Carolina. I
am a volunteer for the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network and I currently
serve as state vice president. My oldest son Keith was the manager of a cafeteria
in Asheville, N.C. In May of 1991, an employee that he had previously fired came
to my son's condo one night looking for revenge. My son was brutally killed. The
perpetrator was tried and convicted of first degree murder.

December, 1992, my next oldest son, Kevin was a pizza delivery man for a well
known national chain of pizza stores. While on the job, he was attacked, robbed, and
beaten by a gang of six teenagers. He did not resist. He gave them his money. They
continued to beat him. As they were leaving, while he still lay on the parking lot,
they shot him three times.

I have sat through three full length, first degree murder trials. Not only was I
horrified at the testimony describing how these animals savagely killed a human
being, I was appalled to see that while our justice system went to great lengths to
protect the rignts of the defendants, the victim was virtually ignored. It soon be-
came apparent that several factors must be present to make our system function.
Obviously we have to have a defendant or there would be no need for a trial. Also
a judge and usually a jury must be on hand. Absolutely essential are the attorneys,
both prosecutor and defense. Usually there are witnesses and police ofUcers. When
all of these elements are in place, our trial can proceed and justice can be done.
The one element that is non essential to our court of law is . . . the victim.
Whether it is a victim of robbery, assault, rape, theft, or as in my case the family
members of homicide victims, we are considered non essential. Only when you be-
come a victim do you realize that you have no enforceable rights.

I do not mean to imply that I was mistreated in either Buncombe County or Guil-
ford County, North Carolina. In fact I received very good treatment from both Dis-
trict Attorneys and their assistants. But as I became more active with NC-VAN I
learned that I was the exception.

I received a call one night from a lady in one of our larger N.C. cities. Her brother
had been murdered a few weeks earlier. After seeing TV news stories about an ar-
raignment hearing to be held the following day. She called her D.A.'s office for infor-
mation. She simply wanted to know: What is an arraignment? What did it mean?
Was she supposed to be present? She called the D.A.'s office for information and no
one would talk to her. She finally called NC-VAN for help and was referred to me.
By the time I talked to her she was hysterical. Defendants have a right to be given
information about how the criminal justice system works. Victims don't. I talked to
another lady last year who had been raped. Her assailant was sentenced to twenty
years. Two years later she was in her neighborhood grocery store and ran into the
rapist. She had no idea that he had been paroled. A member of my own community
was brutally assaulted and disabled. His attacker was sentenced to twenty years
but was eligible for parole in two. Last Fall the defendant was scheduled for a pa-
role review the end of October. But it took the victim until the end of January to
find out if parole was granted. (It wasn't) Victims have no right to be informed of
a defendants release from incarceration.

During the trial of one of the murderers of my son, the defense was presenting
several cnaracter witnesses to try to convince the jury that regardless of eye witness
testimony about cold-blooded murder, his client was really a nice person. Then he
made a motion that I and my family be ejected from the courtroom because our
presence might prejudice the jury. Defendants have the constitutional right to be
informed of, to be present and to be heard at criminal hearings. Victims don't. 'De-
fendants have the right to speak at a guilty plea or sentencing hearing. Victims
don't. A witness before the Presidents Task Force on Victims oi Crime made this



32

simple statement, "Why didn't anyone consult me on the plea bargain? I was the
one who was kidnapped and raped, not the state of North Carolina!" Victims have
no right to be informed of any plea negotiations. Those of us who work as victim
advocates are not trying to lessen the rights of the accused. But victims must have
equal rights by law. The scales of justice must weigh equally for both sides.

There are literally millions of innocent victims of violent crime in this country.
People whose lives nave been irreversibly altered by acts of violence. Men, women,
children, families whose lives have been ruined by the acts of criminals. This is hor-
rible enough. But too oflen they are victimized again by our judicial process. The
frustration and bitterness created for these innocent victims by the imbalance of our
justice system is inexcusable.

Twenty states have now amended their constitution to guarantee the rights of vic-
tims of crime. The people of North Carolina will have the opportunity to vote for
an amendment next November.

Now you have the opportunity to balance the scales of Justice. You have the abil-
ity to guarantee that the rights of the victim have constitutional protection as well
as those of the accused.

Please, be aware of the pain of the innocents. Listen to the voices of these crime
victims. Today I speak to you for the millions of victims throughout our country,
who cry out for justice. On behalf of all of the innocent victims of violent crime, /
urge you to support a constitutional amendment to guarantee our rights.

Mr. Hyde. Thank you very much, Mr. Hodgin. We will now ask
for questions from the members of the committee who will be lim-
ited rather strictly because we have another panel, and then we
have one this afternoon.

So, Mr. Conyers.

Mr. Conyers. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I congratu-
late and applaud and admire these three persons before us today.
It doesn't take much imagination to appreciate the courage and for-
titude in which these tragedies have changed vour life, but you
have still gone on to determine that you would change this system
so that others wouldn't go through what you have.

Let me ask you, Mr. Hodgin, are there any victim rights laws in
the State of North Carolina now?

Mr. Hodgin. Not that I'm aware of, Mr. Conyers. We are at the
mercy of the individual district attorneys and judges.

Mr. Conyers. OK Let me ask you about distinctions you draw
between 173 and 174.

Mr. Hodgin. Sir, 173 carries the qualifying phrase, "to ensure
that victims of crime are treated with fairness, dignity, respect"
and so forth and so on, "unless the court determines there is good
cause for the victim not to be present to comment at any such pro-
ceedings involving release, the acceptance of plea agreement with
the defendant" et cetera, et cetera. So on the one hand, it would
give us rights, and then immediately rescind it.

Mr. Conyers. That's 173?

Mr. Hodgin. Yes, sir.

Mr. Conyers. OK, so your recommendation to the committee is
that we concentrate our attention on 174?

Mr. Hodgin. Absolutely.

Mr. Conyers. I also should congratulate the two ladies before us
because I am sure as a direct result of their activity and organiza-
tion, there are victim rights laws in both Ohio and Maryland. I'd
invite both of you to comment on the nature of these laws, the ex-
tent of their coverage, and what you think of them.

Mrs. Roper. Despite the strength of certain laws in Maryland
and a constitutional amendment, I think we still have to best de-
scribe them as a roll of the dice. A victim discovers that it is not



33

their case. They may not hire an attorney. They are totally depend-
ent upon the prosecutor to not only advocate for the State, but for
them. Unfortunately that isn't always true.

Additionally — I think if there is one single problem even today in
Maryland, it's that most crime victims don't know they have rights,
so consequently they don't even recognize when they are violated.
No one has told them.

Mr. CoNYERS. Thank you verv much.

Ms. Long-Wagner. If I might, in Ohio, sir, what I feel a lot of
these things are, are it looks good on paper and it doesn't come out
in the case. I believe in Ohio now the HIV testing can be done,
where in my case it was not. One thing that I know is not good
in Ohio, their victims' compensation.

When I applied for compensation, it took nine months for them
to investigate my case, give me a case number, all this, make sure
I'm deserving of this money for counseling, is mainly what I used
this for. I applied two more times after that. You would think with
a case number and all included, things would move along. It took
me 8 to 9 months both of those two additional times. This needs
desperate help.

I still cannot be in the courtroom during a trial. He will be up
for his first parole hearing in a year. I am not allowed in that pa-
role hearing.

Mr. CoNYERS. Can you communicate your views to the parole
board or to the court?

Ms. Long-Wagner. Absolutely. I have spoken to the head of the
parole board. I don't know if we can get it done in a year so I have
that right or not. Right now I go in a month before, I talk to two
people. They put it on microfilm. If the people have time on the day
they do his parole hearing, they may look at it. They may not have
time. I feel I deserve the right to tell them what he's done to me,
not look at his record of good behavior in prison.

Mr. CoNYERS. Thank you so very much.

Mr. Hyde. Thank you, Mr. Conyers. Mr. Moorhead.

Mr. Moorhead. Thank you. It's difficult to listen to this testi-
mony without feeling really shaken about things that you've gone
through. I practiced law for a lot of years before I came to Con-
gress. Not much criminal law, but some of the things that you've
gone through are things that no one should have to. I can not be-
lieve that we would refuse to give the victim of a rape the right
to have an HIV test of the person that perpetrated that rape after
he's been convicted. That's something that's just tragic not to per-
mit.

One of our problems is we are too squeamish to give the ade-
quate penalty to these horrible murderers that we have in our
country. We keep recycling them one after another. Many of them
have committed a series of murders. We just continue to let it hap-
pen.

One thing I am wondering, I would like each one of you to tell
me how your situation would have been different if this constitu-
tional amendment were adopted, what it could have changed.

Mrs. Roper. Well, under Maryland law today, victims do have a
right to be informed, present and heard, but again, essentially it's
a roll of the dice. And if the accused person chooses to raise his



34

Federal constitutional right over a victim's State constitutional
right, the offender would always trump the victim's right.

It is vastly different today than in 1982, but again, the people
that I come into contact with on a daily basis, really represent a
trickle, a handful of victims who are informed of their rights. We
need to make sure that every State has a basic standard of rights
for crime victims.

Mr. MOORHEAD. Ms. Wagner.

Ms. Long-Wagner. In my situation as a rape victim, one thing
you deal with that's very difficult is needing control again. You
have had this control taken away from you during this period. You
are desperate for some control. If I had had first of all, this AIDS
test done. I had to wait three months for my own to be done. I had
a test that was negative. I then repeated it in 3 more months and
it was negative. But during this time, it would have helped me im-
mensely to know that he was tested and it was negative.

Control goes back to the fact that I never was sat down. Plea
bargaining was not explained to me. They didn't say you have a
choice here. If you want a trial, let us know, and maybe the judge
then can make the decision. Yes, I want one, and he would make
the decision are we going to have one or not, but he would know
my feelings. The judge never heard my feelings. I desperately
wanted this man to go through a trial.

Mr. MoORHEAD. How were you treated by the police and by the
investigating officers?

Ms. Long-Wagner. The police, they were the best in the long
line of what I went through. They were very considerate. They
were excellent. They gave me control. The officer that took me to
the hospital, I asked could I clean up this mess quickly as best I
could, this fingerprint stuff that was everywhere. I mean I was in
a daze. He said, "You take all the time you need." That little bit
of control.

Then when I had my examination in the hospital, I said, "I as-
sume you are going to want my fingerprints eventually because
they are all over that bed and the bed frame I put together." He
said, "Yes, but it can wait." I said, "I'd rather get it done today."
That was a little bit more control. I got to choose. So they did an
excellent job.

It was further down in the court system that everything went
down hill.

Mr. MooRHEAD. Mr. Hodgin.

Mr. HoDGLN. Sir, as I stated earlier, I was extremely fortunate.
I had good rapport with the district attorney's offices in the two
counties that I was involved in. But only after I got involved with
the victim assistance network, working as a victim advocate did I
become aware of all the problems that existed. I began getting calls
from people all over the State telling me their personal experi-
ences, and did I realize that we've got a long ways to go.

My biggest personal experience was sitting in the courtroom and
observing that the system was bending over backwards to protect
the rights of the defendant, which I have no problem with. But
they wouldn't even hear from our side as to what sort of son my
son was, and so forth. But it's just the accumulation of stories that



35

I heard from all over the State that I decided that no, I've got to
work to get this changed.

Mr. Hyde. The gentleman's time has expired. Does Mr. Schumer
have any questions at this time?

Mr. Schumer. Mr. Chairman, I don't have questions. I have a
great deal of sympathy for what these folks have gone through. I
reahze we have to do something on victims' rights.

Mr. Hyde. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Reed.

Mr. Reed. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the witnesses for their
testimony, and if they have anything additionally to add, this
might be an appropriate time. But I have no specific questions.

Mrs. Roper. If I may

Mr. Hyde. Mrs. Roper.

Mrs. Roper. Mr. Moorhead mentioned something about punish-
ment. I would like to distinguish between punishment and what it
is victims want, because too often the two are mixed together. Even
more important than punishment is how we treat people as human
beings, as Christine said about this control. Not being treated like
a piece of evidence, but as a human being deserving of basic human
rights and satisfaction with the process.

Mr. Hyde. I thank the gentlelady. Mr. Gekas.

Mr. Gekas. I thank the Chair. I want to ask a question that
would be answerable by anv one or all three of the witnesses. But
first, I want to outline to tne witnesses who have come forth that
we have done a great deal as legislators both on the State level and
in Congress on the whole array of victims' rights. The gentleman
from Michigan who spoke earlier and I in the committee that was
relevant at that time, developed legislation on rape crisis and the
State organizations that needed additional funding for that, and
similar organizations expanded their resources and their powers, et
cetera.

I as a prosecutor in Pennsylvania was instrumental, I believe.
My ego tells me I was instrumental in a lot of changes of the law
then on child abuse victims, a whole list of things. Recently in
1994, we took an extraordinary step of allowing the right of allocu-
tion, meaning that a victim would have a right to have a statement
at times of sentencing and all of that. So we have covered a lot of
the items that are called for in this constitutional amendment.

Yet I have great doubts about the constitutional amendment, I
must tell you. But I wanted you to know this little background,
that I don't attack it as some kind of outside source that has no
feeling for victims' rights, because I have worked all my adult life
on behalf of victims' rights, particularly as a prosecutor. For in-
stance, Mrs. Roper stated and this is the most anguishing feature
of victims' abuses in my judgment, that she was barred from the
trial. I think that that same thing happened to one of the other
witnesses, but at least to Mrs. Roper. Well, if we adopted this con-
stitution, there would be no guarantee that you would be able to
be at that trial.

If your case started all over again, according to the language of
the constitutional amendment proposed, it says "and to be present
at every stage of the public proceedings unless the court deter-
mines there is good cause for the victim not to be present." We as-
sume, giving benefit of the doubt to the court, that the exclusion



36

of yourself from that particular trial was based on an exercise of
discretion on the part of the judge that he felt was best in the bal-
ance of that case. Nothing that we do in this constitution would
change, allowing that discretion to apply if this amendment be —
I just wanted you to be aware of that. Therefore, it may be an exer-
cise in good feeling, without really accomplishing something to
have this adopted.

Also

Mr. Canady. Would the gentleman yield briefly?

Mr, Gekas. Who asked?

Mr. Canady. Down here.

Mr. Gekas. Yes. I'll yield.

Mr. Canady. I think you have hit on a point that is important.
However, there's a difference between the two amendments. As one
of the witnesses pointed out earlier, that is a feature of H.J. Res
173, which is not contained in 174.

Mr. Gekas. All right. The other thing that I want to just point
out to Ms. Long-Wagner, I, like the gentleman from California am
deeply distressed about the HIV test issue. Nothing in this con-
stitutional amendment, in my judgement, would guarantee that to
be a mandatory occurrence. I may be wrong, and maybe we can



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 5 of 24)