All Sections

Home | State House Dome

Dave Solomon's State House Dome: The gloves come off in fight over Marsy's Law

February 11. 2018 1:23AM
On Jan. 16, 2018, a crime victim identified as "Dawn" is surrounded by Gov. Chris Sununu, state lawmakers and others supporting a constitutional amendment to protect victims' rights. (Dave Solomon/Union Leader)

The backers of Marsy's Law for New Hampshire know that getting the state constitution amended is going to be a heavy lift, even though the idea of constitutional protections for crime victims is supported by 22 of 24 state senators, House leadership and Gov. Chris Sununu.

The key question is whether two-thirds of state voters who go to the polls in November will support the measure.

In the fight for public opinion, the gloves came off last week in a blistering attack on the American Civil Liberties Union in New Hampshire, one of the leading opponents of the measure as written.

Dawn, a crime victim who asked to be identified only by her first name, was one of several Marsy's Law supporters who gave emotional testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. She restated many of the same horrific circumstances she described at an earlier news conference with Sununu when the initiative was launched.

New to her testimony was a frontal assault on the ACLU.

Just to be sure it was not missed, the public relations firm hired by Marsy's Law for N.H. emailed the full text to reporters under the headline "Victim 'Dawn' tees off on ACLU."

"I found out the ACLU of New Hampshire was representing my abuser, and trying to paint him as a poor, old, sympathetic man," said Dawn. "They used his case as part of a larger effort to remove hundreds of the most dangerous sexual predators from the public sex offender list in New Hampshire."

Pointing out that the ACLU has also hired a lobbying firm to help fight the amendment, she added, "Of all of the civil liberty issues at stake in New Hampshire, they chose to spend their time helping a convicted sexual predator get off of the registry so that he could get free housing that you and I have to pay for."

And that was just the warm up. Her testimony went on to describe the ACLU's recent work in Massachusetts on behalf of the "National Association of Man Boy Love."

"Knowing this organization's history on the issue of child sexual predators, I take offense when I hear them say that they support victim's rights. I am living proof that they do not," she said. "They never once in my case made any attempt to find the truth before representing the monster that hurt me."

She urged the senators to be cautious of the amendment put forward by Sen. Bob Giuda and supported by the ACLU. "The compromises they've put forward so far would completely invalidate Marsy's Law. That will always be the opposition's intent - to ensure that criminals have greater rights than those they victimize."

ACLU policy director Jeanne Hruska later offered a defense of the organization's role in trying to get the man who had abused Dawn as a child removed from the sexual offender registry.

"This was a civil case, not a criminal case, and did not adjudicate the prior criminal actions of the plaintiff, who had committed his offenses decades earlier and not re-offended," she said. "Rather, the case was about a challenge to the retroactive nature of the registry itself and whether it was punitive."

The court held that the law's retroactive, lifetime registration requirements were "punitive in effect" and unconstitutional.

Sununu says he is reviewing Giuda's amendment to decide if he can support it.

The amendment would extend the same list of rights to victims "to the extent that they are not inconsistent with the constitutional or statutory rights of the accused."

"I've been talking to the attorney general as well as some other legislators to ensure that there's no indirect or unanticipated consequences of the (Giuda) amendment," said Sununu. "Obviously, we want to make Marsy's Law as strong as we can. It's a constitutional amendment, so it has to be firm and it has to be clear."

Courts Crime Public Safety Politics Social issues General News State Government

More Headlines