Cornyn Subcommittee Approves Victims Rights Amendment To The U.S. Constitution


In: All News   Posted 06/12/2003
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WASHINGTON – The Constitution protects the rights of the accused, but must also protect victims of violent crime, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said during subcommittee debate on S.J. Res. 1, a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of crime victims. As chairman of the subcommittee on the Constitution, Cornyn convened a markup of the resolution Thursday to discuss, and pass, what is frequently called the Victims’ Rights Amendment (VRA). The resolution passed by a vote of five to four, and now moves to the full committee."I believe it’s time to give an equal playing field to victims of violent crime,” Cornyn told his colleagues on the panel. “Victims of violent crime should have the constitutional right to be notified of, be present at, and have their voices heard at critical public criminal proceedings.” the amendment would grant victims of violent crime the following rights: •Reasonable and timely notice of any public proceeding involving the crime, as well as notice of release or escape of the accused.•Access to public hearings and the right to be reasonably heard at public release, plea, sentencing, reprieve, and pardon proceedings. •Access to decisions by the courts that involve the victim's safety, interest in avoiding unreasonable delay, and just and timely claims to restitution from the offender. •Prohibits any restriction of such rights except in cases where there is a substantial threat to public safety or the administration of criminal justice, or other such compelling necessity."Currently, 33 states—including Texas—already have victims’ rights amendments with similar provisions in their state constitutions, so we have tested these provisions and have seen how they work in state courts,” Chairman Cornyn added. “In the great tradition of U.S. constitutional amendments, we are today prepared to build on that experience in the states and adopt a federal amendment to provide national, uniform protection to all Americans, in all U.S. courts.” the resolution was introduced earlier this year by Sens. Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Both Texas senators are among the 23 fellow co-sponsors. The VRA will now be considered by the full committee before moving to the full Senate for consideration. If ratified by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, the amendment would then move to the states. Ratification by three-fourths of the states would then be required before the Constitution could be amended. Sen. Cornyn chairs the subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights & Property Rights, and is the only former judge on the committee. He also serves on the Armed Services, Environment and Public Works, and Budget Committees. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.See below for text of S.J. Res. 1- 108th CONGRESS 1st Session S. J. RES. 1 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to protect the rights of crime victims. JOINT RESOLUTION Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to protect the rights of crime victims. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), That the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States:`Article--`SECTION 1. The rights of victims of violent crime, being capable of protection without denying the constitutional rights of those accused of victimizing them, are hereby established and shall not be denied by any State or the United States and may be restricted only as provided in this article.`SECTION 2. A victim of violent crime shall have the right to reasonable and timely notice of any public proceeding involving the crime and of any release or escape of the accused; the rights not to be excluded from such public proceeding and reasonably to be heard at public release, plea, sentencing, reprieve, and pardon proceedings; and the right to adjudicative decisions that duly consider the victim's safety, interest in avoiding unreasonable delay, and just and timely claims to restitution from the offender. These rights shall not be restricted except when and to the degree dictated by a substantial interest in public safety or the administration of criminal justice, or by compelling necessity.`SECTION 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to provide grounds for a new trial or to authorize any claim for damages. Only the victim or the victim's lawful representative may assert the rights established by this article, and no person accused of the crime may obtain any form of relief hereunder.`SECTION 4. Congress shall have power to enforce by appropriate legislation the provisions of this article. Nothing in this article shall affect the President's authority to grant reprieves or pardons.`SECTION 5. This article shall be inoperative unless it has been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within 7 years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress. This article shall take effect on the 180th day after the date of its ratification.'.