Ken Erickson House Majority Communications Director
716 W 4th Avenue, Suite 540
Anchorage, AK 99501-2133 Phone: (907) 269-0256 Fax: (907) 269-0154 Actualities: (800) 478-6540 Web: www.akrepublicans.org
"Victims that should be at the center of our system of justice are too often left on the outside looking in. They're treated as uninvolved bystanders with little or no say in the outcome of their case and the four of us really want to change all that. Just as we protect the rights of criminals, so too must we take equal care to protect the rights of victims."
- Rep. Samuals
(ANCHORAGE) - Getting an early start on the 2004 legislative session, four seasoned legislators have been working cooperatively over the last several weeks to draft key crime bills that will close loopholes in the criminal law and protect the rights of crime victims in Alaska. "Victims that should be at the center of our system of justice are too often left on the outside looking in. They're treated as uninvolved bystanders with little or no say in the outcome of their case and the four of us really want to change all that. Just as we protect the rights of criminals, so too must we take equal care to protect the rights of victims" said Representative Ralph Samuels.
To accomplish that goal, Anchorage Representatives Nancy Dahlstrom (R), Lesil McGuire (R), Ralph Samuels (R), and Chugiak/Mat-Su Representative Bill Stoltze (R) will co-sponsor five Bills that are being pre-filed in Juneau. Their victim's rights package, described below, will help those that enforce criminal laws- our police, prosecutors and judges, to reshape our justice system, re-focusing the emphasis on victims and their rights.
A Bill To Promote Truth Telling By Criminal Defendants Who Choose To Testify At Trial
Every criminal defendant has a constitutional right to testify in his defense. But that right must never be construed to include the right to commit perjury. When prosecutors are prevented from using suppressed prior inconsistent statements to challenge the credibility of defendants as they presently are in Alaska, the law perverts the truth finding process. It gives those who would lie under oath in a bid to escape justice a license to deceive jurors and judges as happened in a recent murder trial in Anchorage. Under the supervision of a judge, a new law will permit prosecutors to cross-examine defendants using prior suppressed statements and evidence. Passage of this Bill will bring Alaska into the mainstream of American and federal jurisprudence where such rules have been the law for years.
A Bill To Provide Enabling Legislation To Permit Municipalities And Cities Throughout Alaska To Create A Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team If They So Choose
The goal of this legislation is to authorize municipalities around the state, if they so choose, to empanel a team that could systematically review facts and circumstances of escalating cases of domestic violence related fatalities in order to identify and develop a process for change in policies, procedures and protocols that can lead to the prevention of such crimes. For example, in 2002 there were 18 homicides in Anchorage. Eleven of them [61%] were domestic violence related. DV deaths are among the most preventable type of homicide and creation of such review teams will help stop such crimes.
A Bill To Require Judges To Order Restitution From Criminals In All Cases Where A Victim Has Suffered A Financial Loss
When financial losses of victims are ignored, or given less priority than the rights of criminals, we cause them to be victimized again. A new law would require judges to order restitution in every case where a victim has suffered a financial loss. Under present law, a judge may, but is not required, to do so. This change will also ensure that offenders are ordered to make realistic restitution payments to help make the victim whole within a reasonable time. The act of ordering restitution serves as an acknowledgment by the criminal justice system that the victim sustained harm. Prompt and full payment of restitution can help rectify that harm.
A Bill Requiring Police And Prosecutors To Notify Victims About The Alaska Office Of Victims' Rights
The Alaska Office Of Victims' Rights (OVR) was created by the legislature in 2002 to protect and advance the rights of crime victims and to investigate complaints that their rights under the constitution and laws of the state have been denied to them in their dealings with criminal justice adult and juvenile agencies of the state. That office is funded 100% by forfeited PFDs from convicted criminals. In providing needed services, they have focused on facilitating a cooperative relationship between criminal justice agencies, the courts and the victims of crime who are their clients. But experience has taught that too often victims learn about the OVR only after a case has worked its way through the system rather than at the beginning of that process when OVR lawyers and support staff can be more vigilant and effective advocates of victims' rights as a case unfolds. A new law will require police and prosecutors to provide information about the OVR to victims of felony and other serious crimes up front -- upon first contact and without request by the victim.
A Bill To Require Criminal Defense Attorneys And Investigators To First Obtain The Consent Of A Minor's Parent Or Guardian Prior To Conducting A Tape Recorded Interview With The Minor.
When a criminal defense attorney or defense investigator speaks to a minor victim or witness, and the interview is not recorded, written authorization must first be obtained from the parent or guardian of the victim or witness. However, if the statement is recorded, there is no present requirement in the law that the minor's parent or guardian be consulted to decide whether the minor should waive his or her rights not to speak with defense representatives. This loophole in the law leaves juvenile victims vulnerable and parents in the dark. The proposed Bill will help parents and guardians of minors to learn what is going on in their lives and empower them to make smart decisions about what is in their best interests, not the best interests of criminal attorneys or their clients.
These five Bills are expected to have a zero fiscal note, and it is anticipated that the proposals will have broad bi-partisan support in the next legislative session slated to start in Juneau on January 12, 2004.