Fall ballot issue seeks to protect crime victims, some say it’s not needed


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A new issue on the ballot this November aims to put more power in the hands of crime victims but prosecutors say it’s not necessary.

This fall, Ohioans will be voting on the Crime Victims’ Rights Initiative, also known as Issue 1 and Marsy’s Law. It came out of California in 2008 and, if passed, would give crime victims specific constitutional rights, including:

  • The right to be involved in each step of a criminal case
  • The right to protection from the accused
  • The right to refuse an interview or disposition at the request of the accused
  • The right to restitution

“Lot of the victims that I work with, they aren’t notified,” said Malinda Gavins, with the Sojourner House in Youngstown.

She said the victims get knocks on the door, calls, and texts from their attacker.

But the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney’s Association is against Issue 1, saying Ohio law already gives victims extensive rights, including notification from the prosecutor’s office.

“If a crime occurs, they’re in touch with these victims. They want to see that justice is done and they want to satisfy the victim as to the result,” Atty. James Gentile said.

Issue 1 would also allow victims to legally intervene in criminal cases. Prosecutors say that is irresponsible and could cost taxpayers extra money.

“It’s the State of Ohio versus the defendant, not an individual. Individuals should not be permitted to prosecute on their own. Number two, the question of their right to appointed council,” said Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains.

Victim advocates say victims and their family members need to have the right to intervene because they are the ones who were impacted by the crime and should have a right to seek justice as they see fit.

“Lot of times they lose their jobs, they lose their homes, and they feel like they lose everything and that their perpetrators aren’t held accountable,” Gavins said.

Advocates say that while many of these laws are on the books, Issue 1 would ensure they are always enforced.

Lawyers maintain enforcing these laws is overkill and only increases costs and delays cases.