'Marsy's Law' petitions turned into the Secretary of State

May 10, 2016

Kathleen Wrigley, chair, and members of the Marsy's Law steering committee turn in more than 44,000 signatures to get the victim rights Constitutional measure on the November ballot.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A group has submitted signatures to get a victim’s rights Constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

Supporters of Marsy’s Law needed 26,904 valid signatures. The group delivered more than 44,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office.

The supporters say crime victims should have the same Constitutional rights as those accused of a crime.

Supporters say those rights include a victim’s right to be heard in court, to be notified of court proceedings and to be free from harassment. That would also include a victim’s right not to be deposed.

"A vote for Marsy's Law for North Dakota will enshrine these fundamental rights into our Constitution," said Katheen Wrigley, who chairs the steering committee.

Opponents argue that law allows victims to refuse to undergo a deposition – and that could lead to more cases going to trial. But a member of the Marsy’s Law steering committee, Shane Goettle, told reporters North Dakota has one of the most open and liberal laws in the country when it comes to deposing victims.

"If you look at other states, you will find that they don't go as far as to give sort of an unlimited right of the accused to go depose the victim," Goettle said. "It's not a Constitutional right to take a pre-trial deposition of a non-party. It's a misunderstanding to think we're taking a Constitutional right away from the accused."

Goettle said the defense has every right to anything the prosecutor has gathered.

The Marsy’s Law movement is spearheaded by a Californian – Dr. Henry Nicholas. Supporters say Nicholas donated more than $218,000 to the North Dakota campaign. And supporters say that allowed them to hire 30 paid petition circulators.