Overwhelming Bipartisan Defeat of Marsy’s Law in New Hampshire

By Kimberly Morin

Yesterday, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted on the CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 22 (CACR 22), RELATING TO: rights for crime victims, also known as “Marsy’s Law.” In an overwhelming bipartisan defeat, the house voted 284 – 51 against Marsy’s Law and changing the New Hampshire Constitution. They also voted to “indefinitely postpone” this amendment being brought up again.

On the outset, Marsy’s Law seems like a no brainer – give victims constitutional rights. How could anyone possibly oppose something that helps victims? Many legislators signed on in support based on what they were told by the paid lobbyists for the constitutional amendment. As with anything “too good to be true,” the devil was in the details and that’s where Marsy’s Law fails, in every aspect.

Marsy’s Law was brought to New Hampshire by a California billionaire, Henry Nicholas, whose sister was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. Unfortunately, his mother literally ran into the accused murderer after he was released on bail. She was not aware he was roaming about the state. So, Nicholas thought it would be a good idea to spend millions of dollars changing constitutions in states across the country in the name of his sister, Marsy.

Of course, Nicholas comes with his own set of baggage. The man has been indicted on SEC fraud charges as well as “federal narcotics charges that include allegations he slipped ecstasy into the drinks of business associates, maintained a drug warehouse and concealed his illegal conduct with bribes and death threats.” He was also accused of emotional and physical abuse by a former girlfriend in a $70 million lawsuit. Interesting he seems to create his own victims.

Despite all of the “baggage” Nicholas carries with him, some in New Hampshire thought it would be a great idea to jump on board his “constitutional change” train. They were all paid for it (many are paid consulting groups) but refused to disclose the amounts. Nicholas has been known to spend upwards of $2 million trying to buy constitutions in other states, maybe he got off cheaper in the Granite State. Financial disclosures don’t have to be filed until June.

Marsy’s Law lobbyists and proponents made many claims about the amendment. They claimed victims don’t have rights in New Hampshire or at least, according to the Attorney General, they aren’t enforceable. There is indeed a Victim Bill of Rights in the state, one that has been in place for decades. It’s a tad unbelievable it isn’t enforceable since taxpayers spend millions of dollars on victim advocacy and services every year.

During the Joint Committee vote, Representative Paul Berch (D – Cheshire) spoke at length about the falsehoods being spread regarding existing victims’ rights and touted the general satisfaction of victims in the state:

Victims, generally speaking, in this state, are exceedingly happy with our Victims’ Rights Statute. Polling that’s on the Department of Corrections website indicates the satisfaction level of about 95% – 99% according to the questions asked. That’s a very high level of satisfaction.

Berch also went on to explain that the Victim Bill of Rights in New Hampshire is mandatory, it is not optional as suggested by some and it has been amended at least five times by the legislature to make it better. Berch also stated that Marsy’s Law “cannot and should not be saved.”

A comparison was done between the existing Victim Bill of Rights and Marsy’s Law and it turns out that New Hampshire has a very strong Victim Bill of Rights, far better than anything Marsy’s Law would offer.

In fact, many argued that Marsy’s Law wouldn’t benefit victims at all and would actually make things worse, including the fact that Marsy’s Law would grant absolute immunity to the state, disallowing any victim to seek “recourse from the courts” if the state failed them.

One of the biggest issues with Marsy’s Law is the constitutional guarantee of “due process” which would essentially cease to exist if Marsy’s Law were actually put into place. From ACLU of New Hampshire:

Another key consideration is legal clarity. As worded, CACR 22 includes rights that conflict with an accused’s constitutional rights, but provides no guidance for how judges should resolve such conflicts. What should a judge do when a victim’s right to refuse discovery and depositions runs up against a defendant’s constitutional right to evidence that could prove their innocence? In the absence of clarity, we risk inconsistencies and injustice.

The paid lobbyists and proponents of Marsy’s Law either intentionally lied about what the amendment will actually do or are willfully ignorant of the truth. If they were truly concerned about victims’ rights, they would have pushed to change the existing Victim Bill of Rights to make it stronger and to fill any gaps which they believe exist.

It seems that money was more of a motivation than truth. Money was more of a motivation than actual victims. And money was a motivation more than preserving New Hampshire’s Constitution.

Fortunately, grassroots activists, the ACLU, paid lobbyists against the measure, along with legislators who actually sought the truth, were able to break the trance of the emotional reasoning of Marsy’s Law proponents to reveal the devil in the details. Sadly, the paid lobbyists keep pushing their lies about the failed amendment. In a statement from Marsy’s Law for New Hampshire Director Amanda Grady-Sexton after their defeat:

Unfortunately, there are some people who just don’t support victims having equal constitutional protections to the accused and convicted. We believe that a majority of New Hampshire residents want that to change. It has been 25 years since a New Hampshire Attorney General first recommended that our state pass such an amendment and the fight to do so does not end today. We will continue to work with legislators, grassroots activists and, most importantly, crime victims to provide equal, constitutionally protected rights for New Hampshire crime victims.

Marsy’s Law was a bad amendment from the very beginning. In every state that failed to defeat the “hobby farm of an eccentric billionaire,” there have been many issues as a result. Issues that are detrimental to victims, the accused and justice for all.

The overwhelming bipartisan defeat of Marsy’s Law proves that an out-of-state billionaire can’t buy the constitution or the votes of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, no matter how much he pays people to lie about it or cry about it. The truth, Granite Staters and New Hampshire’s Constitution prevailed.

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