AZ Victims Rights Law

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The victim’s rights amendments to the Arizona constitution and statutes created a range of victim’s rights. Robert McWhirter, Constitutional Law Expert and Author and Jared G. Keenan Legal Director American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona gave us an insight on the topic.

“Is a broad range of statues and constitutional provisions in the Arizona Constitution designed to give victims more of a voice in the system and more respect in the system,” said McWhirter.

According to McWhirter, many of these are legitimate, but many were nothing more than a way of transferring power in the criminal justice system to prosecutors. One law states that a defense attorney or investigator could not contact anyone designated to be a “victim” for a pretrial interview. Any request for interview had to go through the prosecutor. This often meant the defense could not interview the main witnesses to any crime for which the defendant is charged. Attorneys argued for years this violates the 5th amendment due process clause, the 6th amendment right to counsel clause, and the 1st amendment right to speech clause.Federal district court judge Logan just ruled in favor of defendants under the 1st amendment and enjoined enforcement against defense attorneys or investigators by prosecutors or the state bar of Arizona.

“Not only did it violated the first amendment but again, the opinion really gets into this troubling skewing of the system in favor of one side over the other,” said Keenan. McWhirter said that a lot of times victims and prosecutors do not share the same interests or opinions. “Many times victims don’t want prosecution, many times victims don’t want death penalty and those victims are shouted aside and not heard because it doesn’t conform to the interest of the prosecutor,” said McWhirter.

“It’s simply bad law. The first amendment is the first amendment for everybody. It’s not the first amendment for prosecutors and a different first amendment for a criminal defense attorney, said Keenan. “Is one first amendment applied to everyone equally and that’s what judge Logan’s ruling says. It is a robust reaffirmation of the first amendment and I don’t see any way of fixing this law.”

Robert McWhirter, Constitutional Law Expert & Author; Jared G. Keenan Legal Director American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona

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