Prop 9: 'Miranda Rights' for victims?

When a suspect is arrested, his or her rights are read. However, there are no Miranda Rights for the victims. Many feel it is time to change that, and they are counting on Proposition 9 to make it happen.

"Criminals have their rights put in the Constitution. Victims need the same thing. We need our protection too," said Lawanda Hawkins, who is in support of Proposition 9.

Hawkins lost her only son to violent crime and she is now helping lead the fight to pass Prop. 9.

The measure is known as "Marsy's Law," which was named or Marsy Nicholas. Nicholas was a University of California-Santa Barbara student who was murdered by a boyfriend in 1983.

"I remember the moment when my son, Reginald, was murdered. I didn't have a clue of my rights. No one told me and my husband nothing," said Hawkins. "We didn't know we had rights."

Proposition 9 would:

  • Require victims be notified of cases
  • Deny state-funded attorneys to some parole violators
  • Could deny parole to those serving life sentences for up to 15 years

Proposition 9 would also make it difficult for the state to release inmates early due to overcrowding. So the opposition to Prop. 9 has taken issue with that possibility. Continuing to keep inmates behind bars is costly.

Teachers are among the opposition to Prop. 9. The group fears Prop. 9 would siphon money from education funding.

"It costs five times the amount of money to house a prisoner for one year as it is spent to educate a student for one year," said Bonnie Shatum, who opposes Proposition 9.

Shatum and other opponents also maintain Proposition 9 doesn't really provide any new protections for crime victims.

"They need to understand that those provisions, most of them are already in the law to protect families and victims. And it's just going to be very expensive at a time when California just does not have that much to spend," said Shatum.

However, for those who have lost loved ones, who have been on the wrong end of the judicial system, Prop. 9 provides peace of mind.

"If these rights were already in place, do you think we would waste our time asking for them? Come on! I'm a mama whose only child was murdered. I have a lot of other things to do," said Hawkins.

The rights of victims will be in the hands of voters. And in a time of tight budgets and a slumping economy, those voters will be forced to weigh the price of the protections proposed by Prop. 9.

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