Prop 9 going strong

MaryAnne Shults

With more than half of the precincts reporting, the bulk of voters show support of the passage of Proposition 9. At 12:05 a.m., 53.6 percent voted in favor and 46.4 percent opposed.

Prop. 9, dubbed Marsy’s Law, would write crime victim’s rights into the state’s Constitution to expand the Victims’ Bill of Rights approved by voters in 1982.

Supporters say criminals are often overprotected while victims have to take care of themselves. Opponents say victims already have statutory rights such as notification of certain legal proceedings like sentencing and parole hearings.

The first issue of the measure is to expand legal rights of crime victims and the payment of restitution from any criminal offender causing the victim’s loss. As it stands today, some judges do not order restitution if the defendant has compelling reasons they cannot pay.

Prop 9 requires that, without exception, any convicted offender where the victim suffers a loss, must pay restitution. These payments would take priority over payment of any fines or other legal obligations owed by the offender.

Under the initiative, prosecutors would have to consult with victims about charges to file. Victims could refuse interviews or testimony.

Procedures for granting and revoking parole would change for criminals denied parole from a life sentence. Currently, inmates are entitled to a hearing every one to five years. The initiative would postpone another parole hearing for 15 years.

It also makes it more difficult for criminals to be paroled and requires officials to avoid releasing inmates early to ease prison crowding, going against federal rulings that put a cap on the number of inmates housed in jails throughout the state.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office said, “Keeping inmates in jail or prison longer under Proposition 9 could cost the state and counties hundreds of millions of dollars a year.” However, their office also pointed out that it could save the state tens of millions of dollars annually by reducing parole hearings.

The measure is named for Marsy Nicholas, 21, murdered by her boyfriend in 1983. Several days after his arrest, Marsy’s mother came face to face with him at a grocery store after he had been released on bail. The family was never notified of his release.

Prop 9 is backed by billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III, co-founder of Broadcom, and brother of Marsy, who was indicted in June on federal securities fraud and drug charges, of which he has pleaded not guilty.

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