The polls are open tomorrow, and another round of misleading advertisements from supporters of Amendment 6, the so-called “Victim’s Rights” Amendment have hit the airwaves and social media. Proposed Amendment 6 on the upcoming Florida ballot, which includes the language known as ‘Marsy’s Law’, does not make sense for Florida. It’s being touted as the victim’s rights amendment, but Florida already has one of the robust victim’s rights protections in the country. And because of the bundling of proposed Amendments, it also does some things that are completely unrelated to victim’s rights: adjusting the retirement ages of judges, and a provision modifying administrative rulings.
The supporters of Amendment 6 are well-funded by the billionaire co-founder of Broadcom, Henry Nicholas. Nicholas, himself an accused drug trafficker, has purportedly put up most of the $36 million ($36.95 million, at last report) for the misleading advertising that promotes the proposal. The ads are deliberately misleading about the rights that Amendment 6 will and will not create. One of the claims is that Amendment 6 will give the victim’s and their families a right to be heard. However, those specific rights are already granted by the Florida Constitution. In addition, Florida already has victim notification for courts dates, inmate release, and a state’s right to speedy trial. The campaign for is a charade under the guise of victim’s rights, when several of the ads are outright lying to make Amendment 6 look like it will create rights that are already enshrined at the constitutional level.
The Florida Constitution, Section 16, “Rights of accused and of victims,” reads in relevant part:
“Victims of crime or their lawful representatives, including the next of kin of homicide victims, are entitled to the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings, to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”
Florida’s Constitution grants Florida victims more rights than under the Federal Constitution yet preserves the rights of those accused to due process and trial by jury. Additional victims’ rights are already codified in the Florida Statutes, Chapter 960 which specifically provides for “Victim Assistance”. The commercials are misleading about Florida law.
What the ad campaigns neglect to mention is that the Amendment will impede on the rights of the accused, and likely run into conflict with the U.S. Constitution. The ads neglect to mention that Amendment 6 is an unfunded mandate that will create a burden on law enforcement. The ads neglect to mention that the Amendment is vague and unenforceable: not only does the proposal fail to allocate financial resources to implement the changes, it will also likely cost a great deal more when it is challenged in the courts.
A news item that just came out highlights another problem with Amendment 6. The Amendment also contains a provision that limits how long collateral attacks can challenge a conviction (such as appeals, and motions for newly discovered evidence). Today the Florida Innocence Project announced the exoneration and release of another wrongly convicted individual. Clemente Aguirre had been on death row for 12 years, even though DNA evidence pointed to another person, and that person had admitted committing the crime. Aguirre’s appointed attorney failed to test any of the blood evidence that eventually exonerated Aguirre, scoffing at the idea of hiring a “CSI Las Vegas blood whisperer”. Florida very nearly executed an innocent man, and the error could not have been corrected if Amendment 6 was in place as written.
The News-Press recommends voting no on Amendment 6, saying most of the proposed amendments are a “train wreck.” The Naples Daily News is against it, as are several Florida papers. Opposition runs the gamut, from the ACLU and the Florida Association of Defense Lawyers, to the Florida Bar’s Criminal Law Section, to Save My Constitution, a group of republican former lawmakers including Connie Mack and former Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp, who has also written in opposition to the CRC bundled proposals. Unifying the fight is the principle that legislating at the Constitutional level is generally a bad way to govern. Others who have spoken out against Amendment 6 include the State Board of the League of Women Voters of Florida, Eighth Circuit State Attorney William Cervone and Public Defender Stacy Scott, and respected Board Certified Criminal Law attorneys such as David Redfearn and Denis deVlaming.
Henry Nicholas has spent tens of millions of dollars to mislead Florida voters about the need for Amendment 6. The slick commercials suggest that victims don’t have equal rights in Florida, but they are not telling the truth. The proposed amendment does not make sense, it is unnecessary, and does not have a place in Florida’s Constitution.