The good citizens of California passed Marsy’s Law in 2008, amending their state constitution to create defined rights for crime victims that are enforceable. Learn more about Marsy’s Law at www.marsyslawforall.com.
Two independent and prominent California attorneys have separately analyzed the constitutionality of SB 9, signed into law by Governor Brown in September 2012, sponsored by Senator Leland Yee. They have each confirmed what NOVJL has long held – that to retroactivelyintroduce parole reviews for early release into a life without the possibility of parole sentence for murder is unconsitutional.
And in California, it violates especially the provisions of Marsy’s Law by violating victims’ rights. Murder victims families walk away from a natural life sentence for the offender in their case with a sense of permanence and relief. They often do not register for victim notification. They do not retain records and contacts that they might later need if they were to know in advance that parole reviews would be part of the sentence. This is unfair, and also a violation of due process, especially when years later some records might not be obtainable.
These are the points of Marsy’s Law in the California Constitution that we believe violate victims rights, making SB 9 unconstitutional:
SB9 CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATIONS
Pursuant to the California Constitution, in order to preserve and protect a victim’s right to justice and due process, a victim is entitled to the following rights:
9. To a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings. (Cal.Const. Art. I § 28 (b(9)).
SB9 violates the California Constitution by taking a final conclusion of a case and reopening it. As a victims’ family has actual rights under the constitution, a bill that changes and diminishes these rights is an ex post facto type of change, which would be a due process violation under both state and federal law.
15. To be informed of all parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, to provide information to the parole authority to be considered before the parole of the offender, and to be notified, upon request, of the parole or other release of the offender. (Cal.Const. Art. I § 28 (b(15)).
SB9 provides for a petition by the inmate and a response by the prosecution. There is no provision for informing the victim’s family nor for any participation by the victim’s family in the process. Instead, without input from the victim’s side, a court reviews bare papers and makes “determinations of fact” from an incomplete set of facts. This violates Art. 1, § 28 (b(15)).
16. To have the safety of the victim, the victim’s family, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made. (Cal.Const. Art. I § 28 (b(16)).
The decision is a part of the parole process/post-judgment release process. Safety of the victim’s family is not a factor in the initial decision whether to hold a hearing. This is yet another constitutional violation under SB9.