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Ballot initiative begun for crime victims in Ohio

Victims of crimes are generally sympathetic. The problem with that sympathy is that it motivates people to choose to do things that in the absence of that sympathy they would be unlikely to consider. A new amendment to the Ohio Constitution has been proposed that would, in the words of the news report, "give crime victims the same rights as accused or convicted of crimes."

The word "same" makes it seem only fair. Why shouldn't a victim have the same rights defendants? What this ignores is the fact that we still use the presumption of innocence in criminal cases. The accused has certain Constitutional rights because the vast criminal justice machinery of the state is about to bear down on that individual, with resources which few individuals can match.

Because the police can strip a person of their liberty via an arrest, there are numerous requirements designed to prevent injustices. Even with those requirements, as numerous stories of wrongful convictions have shown, that criminal "justice" system sometimes gets it wrong.

While some of the notice provisions of the proposed amendment are not unreasonable, assuming the prosecutors and police can develop a system to keep track of victims and those convicted, the amendment has other problematic features.

What does "input" for plea deals mean? Will prosecutors need tacit approval from a victim? It also will require a "prompt conclusion of the case." What this means is vague, as the courts are busy and dockets crowded. Short of hiring more judges and prosecutors, it is unclear what could be done to speed things up.

Part of the problem with initiatives like this is that they assume that everyone arrested is guilty. These ideas are popular because while everyone sees themselves as a potential victim, few recognize the fact that they, too, could one day be arrested.

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