We agree that a criminal justice system that takes victims into account is a "laudable goal" ["Victims and Their Rights," editorial, Sept. 27]. We also agree that many victims' rights properly have been given statutory protection and have been added to many state constitutions.
This is not enough, however. The rights of defendants are included in the U.S. Constitution, and this superiority of rights is often used to deny victims that which federal and state statutes and state constitutions seek to guarantee. Worse, prosecutors and judges often ignore the few legally protected rights of crime victims.
The Oklahoma City bombing trial provides a striking example of the subversion of the rights of crime victims. Kept from attending the trial (because of perceived prejudice against the defendant), the victims sought passage of a specific law by Congress to allow them into the courtroom. But even this statutory protection was rejected by the judge.
So why not guarantee the victims' rights in the Constitution? The Post concludes that "the notion of government-guaranteed rights for the victim is less of a clean fit than it is for the accused." If The Post believes in victims' rights, that is an extraordinarily insensitive and trivial justification for inaction. Moreover, by using the phrase "government-guaranteed rights," The Post doesn't even distinguish between statutory and constitutional protections in its rejection of victims' rights -- revealing a lack of conviction even for the less-effective statutory guarantees.
Last Thursday the Senate Judiciary Committee approved our amendment, giving the full Senate the chance to affirm the rights of victims of violent crime by placing them in the U.S. Constitution -- only then will victims' rights be fully protected.
U.S. Senator (D-Calif.)
U.S. Senator (R-Ariz.)
The writers are members of the Judiciary Committee and the authors of the crime victims' rights constitutional amendment.