Recent Victims' Rights Case Law Update

Below are summaries of recent cases implicating victims' rights which may be of interest to you:

In re Hickson, 2000 WL 1863544 (Pa. Super): A person who is not a family member of the victim does not have standing under Pennsylvania's victims' rights law to file a complaint for review of a prosecutor's decision not to charge.

State v. Lamm, 620 N.W.2d 764 (Neb): The refusal to allow a victim to testify, as required by the victims' rights amendment to the state constitution, cannot be remedied, because the state legislature had provided no statutory means of enforcing the constitutional right.

Greene v. State, 2001 WL 83299 (Ark): Murder victim's wife's statements regarding her forgiveness of the defendant and her desire that he not be sentenced to death were inadmissible. They might confuse and mislead the jury, and were not relevant to the circumstances of the crime, which are the only things victim's were supposed to testify to.

State v. Byers, 2001 WL 109150 (Ohio App.) (unpublished): a police officer who is also the victim may testify at sentencing, because he is not testifying as an agent of the state.

State v. Eggenberger, 2001 WL 118894 (Wisc. App.): Victim's family members may testify as to impact of crime. But see State v. Johnson, 2000 WL 1839411 (Ill.App.): family members may not testify if victim still alive. Note: There are also several other cases from other states on whether family members can testify pursuant to victims' rights statutes.

State v. Gomez, 2001 WL 41012 (La): The Louisiana victims' rights constitutional amendment and statutes do not allow: 1) testimony of relatives if the victim is alive; 2) testimony of mental health professionals as to the crime's impact on the victim; and 3) evidence concerning the financial expenditures of the victim's family for counseling and the like. Note: This case appears to be one in a series in which the Louisiana Supreme Court is fighting with the state legislature over the scope of the victims' rights legislation--i.e. the legislature (or voters through initiative) pass a law, then the court construes it narrowly, and then the legislature tries to overturn that decision by amending the law, and then the court makes another narrow construction, etc. So, this might be an interesting area to delve into more deeply.

Thanks to Nathaniel Zylstra of Yale Law School and Dave Evans for their research.


2003 The Federalist Society