Something that sounds as positive as a “crime victims’ bill of rights” is finding itself easier said than done at the state Capitol. A proposed constitutional amendment which has already passed the House got a favorable vote in a Senate committee only after the sponsor agreed to negotiate it further before a full Senate vote. The hearing in the Senate Executive Committee drew opposition from some unlikely groups: crime victims and prosecutors.
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Testifying for the bill, Ann Spillane of the attorney general’s office said it “would give victims the ability to enforce their rights by giving them standing in the courtroom only when it pertains to their rights. It’s critical to note that this does not make them a party to the case.” A Lake County stabbing victim, Glenn Gosh, says that’s exactly the problem: “I hope you, as elected representatives, will do your part in helping the Land of Lincoln follow Arizona’s lead, which has allowed the citizen a right to a cause of action for damages since 1990.” Prosecutors pointed out further rights would complicate cases. “The fact that the victim has a right to be heard … could very well affect (a) plea agreement,” said DuPage County state’s attorney Bob Berlin. “Oftentimes, co-defendants are very unwilling to testify against another co-defendant, especially when they’re in the same gang.”
If the amendment survives the Senate, Illinois voters would see it in November. HJRCA 29 has passed the Senate Executive Committee.