Measure 3: Victim's Rights Or Unclear Constitutional Law

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Victims of crimes are often thrust into the criminal justice system through no fault of their own.

Measure 3, known to proponents as Marsy's Law, would place about 20 rights for victims in the state's constitution.

That includes the right to refuse deposition, the right to promptly be notified of a criminal's release and the right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.

But opponents say many of these rights are already in state law. Others could lead to legal issues.

The presumption of innocence - innocent until proven guilty - is one of the most important parts of the U.S. justice system and is codified in several amendments, but crime victims aren't included in that equation.

"They are thrust into the criminal justice system through no fault of their own, and then they are too routinely, sometimes but not all the time, ignored," says Kathleen Wrigley, Marsy's Law for North Dakota Chairwoman.

But opponents say the measure will bog down the system.

"It's poorly worded. It has a lot of ambiguities in it, and we don't want to have ambiguities in our constitution. You want clear, concise, direct statements of constitutional law," says Bob Wefald, former attorney general.

They also worry that money for the campaign comes from California entrepreneur Henry Nicholas, who has donated more than $2 million.

"It's not right for North Dakota because we value our constitution. We don't like people messing with our constitution, we don't like out-of-state billionaires coming in and trying to rewrite parts of our constitution," says Wefald.

"Crime victims are falling through the cracks. I have crisscrossed the state. I have listened to their stories. They're falling through the cracks, not 100 percent of the time, but talk to them. For them, it's 100 percent of the time," says Wrigley.

Wefald says proponents should have come to the legislature to ask for changes, while Wrigley says constitutional change is necessary. She says even though victims are protected in state law, constitutional protection goes above and beyond.

Wrigley says North Dakota is one of 18 states without constitutional protections for crime victims.



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