When the Daily Times reached Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn about the certification of the petition for a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would add the Ohio Crime Victims Bill of Rights, he was meeting with a victim of a crime.
“I was meeting the victim,” Kuhn said. “It’s a surviving family member in one of the homicide cases we’ve had.”
Kuhn said the meeting was to figure out a method of keeping the victim informed as the case progressed.
On Friday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine certified the petition.
“It looks like its a move to incorporate at least aspirational portions of the Ohio Victims of Crime Act into the State Constitution,” Kuhn said. “It looks like its a lot of those provisions that had been adopted over time since 1996 in the Victims of Crime Act, which Chapter 29.30 of the Ohio Revised Code.”
On Jan. 24, 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received a written petition to amend the Ohio Constitution to add the Ohio Crime Victims Bill of Rights by a group called Marsy’s Law for Ohio, LLC. The petition was certified Friday as containing both the necessary 1,000 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters and a “fair and truthful” summary of the proposed amendment.
“Generally speaking it means that victims have a right to be kept informed as to what is going on with the case when they’re a victim,” Kuhn said. “If they want they have an opportunity to come in and talk to the prosecutor that’s handling the case; that they have an opportunity to speak before the judge imposes a sentence or disposition or parole would be granted.”
The certification is just the first step in the process that would put the act on the ballot. He said it was also an opportunity to dispel gossip on the streets.
“Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred, but pursuant to the duties imposed upon the Attorney General’s Office […] I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law,” DeWine stated in the certification letter.
Once the summary language and initial signatures are certified, the Ohio Ballot Board must determine if the amendment contains a single issue or multiple issues. The petitioners must then collect signatures for each issue from registered voters in each of 44 or Ohio’s 88 counties equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. Total signatures collected statewide must also equal 10 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.
“I have always been a supporter of the Ohio Victims of Crime Act,” Kuhn said. “I don’t see anything in the proposed Constitutional Amendment that is contrary to that (Ohio Victims of Crime Act).”
“Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred, but pursuant to the duties imposed upon the Attorney General’s Office […] I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law,” Attorney General DeWine stated in the certification letter.
“I think the main thing is to keep the victims informed so that if they want to be involved they can be. It makes for a stronger case when it comes time either for a trial or sentencing, because, for the trial, the prosecutor needs to know more about the case by meeting with the victims,” Kuhn said. “And for the sentencing, the judge is going to have a better feel for the case by hearing what the victim has to say about it.”
Kuhn said two of his employees, Amber Davis and Joyce Packard, work full time as victim advocates
Kuhn said some victims want to be involved as much as possible and others want to be involved as little as possible.
“I just think giving them that option is important for getting the right outcome on the case and for making sure that we promote confidence in what courts are doing,” Kuhn said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.