Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Bill Being Introduced to Protect Victims Rights
Senator Hollis French wants to guarantee victims a timely trial of the accused
Senator Hollis French (D-Anchorage) says right now in courts the accused hold all the cards in regard to the right to a quick trial, and the senator says he wants to level the playing field. The bill being introduced into the legislature will require judges to consider a victim’s right to a timely disposition of their case when deciding whether to allow a continuance.
If passed by the legislature, the new law would especially help the more serious and lengthy cases. Senator French says it’s a frequent complaint of victims who can’t get their case to trial because defense teams keep pushing the trial date back.
“This bill makes the judge stop and think when the defendant asks for yet another continuance,” French said. “Sometimes these cases, the more serious cases, can drag on for years.”
It took 17 years for Bonnie Craig’s family to see her killer convicted. “At one point it felt like we’re asking, begging that they not grant another delay,” said Karen Foster, Bonnie Craig’s mom.
It was five years after DNA linked Kenneth Dion to the crime that a jury found him guilty. Bonnie Craig’s mother says delays in her daughter’s case kept coming.
But not everyone is happy about the proposed legislation. “As criminal defense lawyers we have an obligation to clients to do certain things and to get them done right, just like prosecutors have certain rights and obligations in cases too, and it can’t be done in the time in a four month, 120 day line of time,” said Rex Butler, a local defense attorney.
Some attorneys say the law, if passed, would put pressure on the justice system and defense lawyers – which could lead to mistakes in trials.
“Every time you turn around the politicians in Juneau are creating laws or stiffening penalties,” Butler said. “Every time that happens it creates a great burden on the system.”
Bonnie Craig’s mom hopes the bill will pass and make life a little easier for the families of future victims of crime.