A chart on The Federal Report page last Monday on the number of environmental impact statements filed in 1980 by various agencies had a column that was incorrectly labeled "suits." The number represented the number of statements filed by each agency.
The Senate yesterday approved unanimously a bill to give victims of federal crimes certain rights to reimbursement and protection, on grounds that victims have often been ignored as courts and police have concentrated on criminals.
The bill, said sponsor Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.) at a separate presidential task force hearing on victims' problems, would "begin the process of rebalancing the scales of justice" by serving as a model for laws at the state and local levels, where nearly all violent crime is handled.
Witnesses at the hearing gave hearty endorsement to the general principles of Heinz' bill, which Heinz hopes to get passed and signed into law before Congress adjourns in October. It would require that judges receive a "victim impact statement" outlining the financial, social, psychological and medical effects of a federal crime upon the victim before the judge sentences a criminal.
It would also stiffen requirements that the victim be protected from harassment or intimidation; assess the criminal to pay restitution for medical, property and funeral expenses, and give victims first claim to any financial profit the criminal makes from the crime. A Department of Justice official voiced some objections to other provisions that would make the government liable for damages when a "dangerous person" is freed or escapes through gross federal negligence.
Attorney General William French Smith promised "full administration cooperation" to the 10-member task force, appointed in April by President Reagan to report in December on the problems of victims. Presidential counselor Edwin Meese III said the study is "part of an integrated approach to crime" the administration launched this week with proposals to tighten rules of criminal procedure.
Meese said "additional strategies, particularly in the fields of narcotics and drug abuse," were planned in the next few weeks.
The hearing room was hushed as Dorothea Morefield of Annandale, whose husband was one of the Americans taken hostage in Iran, told how her son Richard Jr. "became a statistic," the victim in one of the murders that occur every 23 minutes nationwide.
"It has been six years and I weep still," she said. The couple and their five other children felt "a deep sense of betrayal that no one really cared" after Richard Jr., 19, was killed by a robber and left with three other dead in the walk-in freezer of a Fairfax County fast-food restaurant in 1976.
"When I wanted to talk about my son I found that murder was a taboo subject in our society," she said. "Nice people don't get killed." She added that she was told repeatedly that the crime was "against the state and will be handled as such."
"If the person who killed my son needs psychological help, I guarantee you he will get it," she said. "But what of the sibling of the murdered child?"
Heinz' bill would not cover her case, nor that of Evelyn A. Blackwell, 71, whose Washington home has been burglarized five times. "The prosecutor acted like . . . I was the criminal," she told the panel. No one informed her about services or counseling available to her, she said, and she suffered from high medical expenses and red tape.
George Sunderland of the National Association of Retired Persons said his 14 million members repeatedly reported crime was tops on their list of worries. He noted that victims have often been treated as "the unwanted actor" in real-life crime dramas, and warned that anger over crime has led to cries for tough action.
But he quoted philosopher Will Durant: "When liberty destroys order, the hunger for order will destroy liberty."