Wisconsin voters approve crime victims amendment

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin voters have approved amending the state constitution to guarantee crime victims more rights.

The measure passed easily in results reported Monday from last week’s election.

The Wisconsin Constitution and state law already lay out a host of victim rights. The amendment largely duplicates that existing language but goes further in several areas.

Victims will now have the right to seal information or records that could be used to locate them and the right to be heard at plea and parole hearings. They will be allowed to opt out of participating in depositions conducted by defense attorneys or opposing attorneys in civil matters. That provision will make it harder for criminal defendants to sue them.

Wisconsin constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive legislative sessions and a statewide referendum before they can be added to the document. The Legislature passed the victim rights amendment in November 2017 and November 2019. The election results mean it’s now part of the constitution.

Several states including California, Illinois, Ohio, Florida, North Dakota and South Dakota have adopted similar amendments, causing some law enforcement agencies to limit public information about crimes. The American Civil Liberties Union opposes the amendments, saying they favor victims at the expense of the accused, who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Supporters have dubbed the amendments “Marsy’s Law” for California college student Marsalee Nicholas, who was killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1983. Her brother, Henry Nicholas, has bankrolled efforts to put the amendments in place across the country.