Marsy’s Law for Hawaii Passes In State Senate and House Committees

Both the Hawaii State Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor and the House Committee on Judiciary passed a version of Marsy’s Law for Hawaii last week; the bills are now awaiting hearing dates in the finance committees.

The legislators once again heard overwhelming support from victims and their family members, organizations standing up for victims’ rights, and individuals supporting protections for violent crime victims. Meg Garvin of the National Crime Victim Law Institute was present at both hearings to provide information on constitutional law and share insight into how other states have enacted a constitutional amendment without any negative impact on the court system.

“The criminal justice system functions best when those directly impacted — both victims and defendants — have their voices meaningfully integrated such that they can perceive the process as fair and transparent,” Garvin testified. “With regard to victims, research makes clear that when the system operates otherwise victims may endure harm beyond the original crime; harm which is referred to as ‘secondary victimization’ and which is recognized to have significant negative impacts on victims as well as on the proper functioning of justice system.”

Other testifiers supporting a better balance between the rights of crime victims and the rights of offenders included Nicholas Iwamoto, who was stabbed in the head six times atop Koko Head on Super Bowl Sunday in 2009.

“The deference shown to my assailant and other violent criminals is absolutely despicable. It seems that the constitutional rights of violent felons are more important than public safety,” testified Iwamoto, who had broke his neck, fractured his skill and had his lungs destroyed when he was dumped off the cliff. “Marsy’s Law is the best chance to give victims justice and compassion in a seemingly hopeless situation. It will give us a voice in the courts. It will keep us in the loop. All we ask for is the same rights afforded to violent offenders who have done such deplorable things to us and our families.”

Kimberlyn Scott, the mother of a pregnant woman who went missing on Maui two years ago, shared with the committee on how her daughter Charli was stabbed repeatedly and whose body was dismembered. She said she has been seen as a “pest” as she had tried to gain access to knowledge that should have been afforded her in the victims’ statute.

“If Marsy’s Law was encoded in our Constitution, we would have been notified of all the hearings in a timely manner and afforded time to prepare to be near the person we believe murdered my child,” Scott testified. “This was not our experience. We have been given as little as 40 minutes notice and at times, none at all.”

The victims testifying said they appreciated their voices being heard as the legislators passed the bills seeking a constitutional amendment out of their respective committees. With a lot of excited energy around Marsy’s Law for Hawaii, we gained a lot of support in print, television and social media. We are looking forward to utilizing this momentum to make Marsy’s Law for Hawaii part of our state Constitution.