Real Examples of Why Equal Rights Are Needed in North Dakota

For the four-year-old North Dakotan who was a victim of child pornography, does that child (and parents) deserve to know what’s going on in the case against the accused criminal? Does that child/family deserve to be notified of any plea agreements, sentencing, or release of the accused? We believe they do. However, the existing victims’ rights to protect them are not getting the job done; partly because the accused’s constitutional rights supersede the victims’ and partly because current statutes have no enforceability.

There are no legal ramifications for ignoring victims’ statutory rights, so many times prosecutors say they “just don’t have time” or “they have discretion” whether to follow all of them. This is not a hypothetical statement. This exact scenario is happening right now to murder victim Donnie Perleberg’s family.

Then there is the Meagher family in Grand Forks whose home was burglarized. Their safety was jeopardized and they lost thousands of dollars in personal belongings. Yet, the plea agreements were made before the Meaghers had any opportunity to be heard in the case. “We had no say—and none of us ever will have a say, unless we as victims stand up and help pass Marsy’s Law,” they wrote to the Grand Forks Herald.

There is also a woman from Minot who was attacked by a stranger with a knife and raped in her own garage. While the state pursued the accused, she – the person who was most affected in the situation – was left to navigate the system by herself. Her mother described it as someone asking you to make a cake except you don’t have any ingredients or the recipe.

These are just a few of the real stories happening here in our state to our neighbors, friends, and co-workers. And yet there are state’s attorneys and victim advocates who would rather continue with business as usual than fix a flawed system.

Marsy’s Law for North Dakota is based on solid legal precedent and was drafted and vetted by North Dakota attorneys, law enforcement, victim advocates and private citizens. North Dakota is only of only 18 states to not have constitutional protections for victims’ rights. In fact, our U.S. Attorneys are already operating their cases under nearly identical laws as we are proposing. Providing crime victims with rights on an equal legal level to the accused is doable and, more importantly, the right thing to do.