SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – KCBS’ Cover Story Series, Marsy’s Law, has uncovered violations of the California Crime Victims Bill of Rights by prosecutors in San Francisco and elsewhere. Specifically, KCBS revealed that Marsy’s Law is not always followed. Defendants are sentenced and released without any notice to the victims, who are denied their constitutional right to address the court first.
In response to this special series, San Francisco’s presiding judge and the state’s chief justice are both recommending reforms. KCBS has also learned that one Bay Area prosecutor, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, is taking it even one step further – training his attorneys to observe a victim’s Marsy’s rights even if the victim doesn’t ask for them to be honored.
“We try to comply with it in every case that we can, whether or not there’s a request,” he explained. “It does not take a request for us to do it, let’s try and make it happen in every case.”
According to Wagstaffe, so few victims invoke their rights under Marsy’s Law that he wants the attorneys in his office to act as if those rights are automatic, if not outright mandatory.
“Probably less than one percent of the cases where they’re exercising their rights to be informed on things. It’s for that reason we try to, as a matter of office policy, we try to follow its dictates even if they’re isn’t a request,” he said.
The KCBS Cover Story series revealed that it was San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon’s office that failed to honor the rights of ‘Jenny,’ the victim profiled in the pieces. He insisted it was an isolated cases and that his prosecutors are already up to speed on the law.
“Lawyers are very used to dealing with new laws all the time and we provide very regular training, in fact we do weekly training in our office. It’s part and parcel of what we do. They’re being given the training and definitely will react accordingly,” said Gascon.
“You better believe the bench in San Francisco, all the judges, and the prosecution will pay much closer attention before they enter into a plea deal when they don’t consult with the victim,” added Todd Spitzer, the former Assemblyman who led the campaign to pass Marsy’s Law.
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