Marsy's Law Critic: 'There's a Misinformation Campaign Going On'

Feb 8, 2018

New Hampshire State House.
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A proposal to enshrine victims' rights in the New Hampshire Constitution has notable backers, including Gov. Chris Sununu, but some say it's too broad and vague.

Buzz Scherr, chairman of International Criminal Law and Justice Programs at UNH School of Law, is in this camp.

He also contends supporters are distorting the rights currently provided by state law.

"There's a misinformation campaign going on," Scherr said on The Exchange on Thursday. "The statement that victims have no rights in New Hampshire is just not true. They have significant rights under the statute."

Former Hillsborough County Attorney Patti LaFrance countered Scherr's remarks. She says nobody's saying victims don't have any rights - just that they should be equal with a defendant's constitutional rights.

LaFrance is now in private practice and also works as a defense attorney. When she was a prosecutor, she recalled hearing from victims saying their rights did not matter in court proceedings. She says constitutional rights always trump statutory rights, which is the motivation for the constitutional amendment.

“At least victims will be on an equal footing so a judge can properly weigh them,” LaFrance says.

Legislators are continuing to review the proposed constitutional amendment, which is called "Marsy's Law."

The push to add the amendment here in New Hampshire is part of a nationwide campaign that’s funded by California billionaire Henry Nicholas. Nicholas’ sister, Marsy, was murdered by an ex-boyfriend.