CI-116 is not about Montana victims. Despite the attractive name and sound bites of the word “victim,” CI-116 (“Marsy’s Law”) is about a national agenda being shoved down our collective throats.
CI-116 will actually work against real victims of crime. For example, it threatens the past 20 years of work on behalf of domestic violence victims by our local SAFE program, law enforcement and prosecutors.
Instead of prosecuting abusers in the 40 percent plus of domestic violence cases where the victim fights against prosecution, CI-116 will give the hostile victim more control of the case, defeating the goals of protecting actual victims and holding real abusers accountable. Likewise, too often the parent of an abused child stands firmly by the abuser, not the child victim of the abuse. Yet, CI-116 will let that hostile parent protect the child abuser, the worst thing we could do to those child victims.
We already have Montana statutes in place for victim protection and participation. If those laws need tweaking, then that should take place in the legislature where public discussion, debate and fine-tuning can take place.
By contrast, CI-116 proposes as an “all or nothing” constitutional initiative that tries to avoid that process. In fact, anyone who speaks up about the absurdities in CI-116 simply risks being labeled “anti-victim.”
Being surprised that this initiative was dropped in Montanan’s laps without those pushing CI-116 reaching out to anyone involved in the day to day work in Montana, the Montana County Attorney’s Association invited the organization behind CI-116 to send a representative to our statewide conference. We heard from a University of Utah professor who unashamedly told us that the initiative had nothing to do with Montana, but was part of a bigger agenda driven by out-of-state interests aimed at a Federal Constitutional amendment. When asked to identify the problem in Montana that was being addressed by the initiative, we were given a vague assurance that “the problem” exists for victims “everywhere.” When we raised concerns about whether the vague language of CI-116 would work in rural Montana, we were told bluntly that, “It works in California and Arizona, so it won’t be a problem here.”
In fact, accounts we receive from colleagues in those states report the very shortcomings we see in the proposed initiative. Not surprising, financial disclosure filings show that the funding behind CI-116, exceeding $650,000, has been funneled through a Limited Liability Company located in Aliso Viejo, California.
Our Montana Constitution should not be a pawn in a national agenda. Our Montana victims should not be re-victimized by a poorly crafted initiative that does not seek to serve Montana victims. CI-116 is not about Montana, and is not about Montana victims. We should reject this misguided outside intrusion.
Ravalli County Attorney