State lawmaker introduces bill to provide legal counsel to victims of violent crimes
Under House Bill 1573, introduced by state Representative Jenny Graham of Spokane, courts would provide legal counsel and rights to the victims of violent crime and other felony offenses. But then the question becomes, is it necessary when the state already is prosecuting the crime? Graham believes it is, and joined the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH to explain why.
“I’ve just been watching things continue to roll backwards and you come to recognize that the prosecutors represent the interest of the state. They do not represent crime victims. Crime victims get victims’ advocates, and they’re great for setting up counseling, but they’re not lawyers,” she said.
“So this legislation is necessary so that we bring some balance back to our justice system, where the accused and the crime victim get equal representation in our justice system,” she added. “That is not happening right now.”
As Jason noted, sometimes prosecutors end up offering plea deals to criminals that may not be a reflection of the desire of the actual victims, and they don’t necessarily have a say. So, he asked, how would that new legal representative play into the current court proceedings? Would they have a seat at the table?
“That’s the idea behind this. Right now, who is actually watching out for the rights of the crime victim?” Graham responded. “I do believe that we have good prosecutors out there, but we also are very clearly seeing some trends towards — not only prosecutors, but judges — that are leaning more and more towards just focusing on the perpetrators of crimes and not the crime victims.”
“And it’s the same thing with resources. There are very little resources for crime victims, and the lion’s share goes to the perpetrators,” she said. “So I’m working to bring some balance back. Because we need to have accountability and we can also have rehabilitation. It shouldn’t be one or the other.”
Graham hopes to highlight the rights of the crime victim, and provide them more of a voice in court proceedings that she says they don’t have at the moment.
“Right now, the crime victim doesn’t even get a say. They would (if the bill passes) have a lawyer that would help to be able to fight for their rights as a crime victim,” she said. “So that whatever decision is made, that instead of just being about the perpetrator’s rights and concerns as far as the state goes, … there needs to be a seat at the table for crime victims and their families, and they deserve more representation than just a crime victims’ advocate.”
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