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KCBS Cover Story Pt. 5; Series On Marsy’s Law Failures Prompts Judicial Action

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A cameraman records the judge's podium in a courtroom closed due to budget cuts and layoffs, at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on March 16, 2009. Beset by an unprecedented budget crisis, the LA Superior Court, the largest trial court system in the US, laid off 329 employees and announced the closure of 17 courtrooms, with more of both expected in the future. AFP PHOTO/Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

A cameraman records the judge’s podium in a courtroom. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – In response to a KCBS investigation into the violation of victims’ rights in California, the presiding judge in San Francisco is recommending new procedures for the courts to follow.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern reports exclusively that the state’s chief justice is also asking judges in other counties to consider doing the same.

Earlier, Sovern reported in his exclusive Cover Story series about crime victims whose Marsy’s Law rights were ignored–plea bargains were struck, hearings were held and defendants were released–all without the constitutionally guaranteed notice to the victims.

That is not the way the system is supposed to work.

“The victims have a right to be heard,” stressed San Francisco County Superior Court Presiding Judge Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee.

Even though the law only requires that district attorneys keep victims in the loop, and doesn’t order judges to make sure victims’ rights are protected, as a result of KCBS’ reporting, Presiding Judge Lee is recommending that all judges in San Francisco ask if the victim has been notified or wants to appear in court.

“This is a good reminder for my judges and as the presiding judge I will be reminding them that Marsy’s Law is on the books and that we are obligated and more than obligate that as part of the criminal justice system we have to honor and respect the rights of the victims and honor and respect their desire to be present,” she said.

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye is applauding that decision, and will notify other counties about it.

“I would certainly raise the issue with the presiding judges and ask them to be aware of it,” she said, adding that she would ultimately leave it up to the discretion of the other presiding judges whether to follow San Francisco’s lead.

She will, however, pursue additional training for judges about Marsy’s Law, as a result of the KCBS investigation.

Jenny, the crime victim KCBS profiled and whose case brought the issue to light, is still hoping to be heard in her case. She has retained a victim’s rights attorney to see if she can get her attacker’s guilty plea reversed so she can address the court.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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