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Correcting wrongs on Victims’ Rights Bill

The recent story on HB 2625 overlooked several important facts and did not provide the proper context for this important piece of legislation (“Victims’ rights bill aims to boost nonprofit’s revenues” 4/7/2014).

Contrary to the article’s opening characterization, the bill is not designed to benefit a single organization.  Instead the draft language allows legal clinics and other victim service providers to qualify for funding by partnering with pro bono attorneys who have experience representing victims in court.  Nor is the legislation using “public money to benefit private enterprise” — the funds come from an assessment levied on criminal defendants, not taxpayers, and can only be disbursed to non-profit organizations.

The article further asserts one of these service providers, the Arizona Crime Victims Legal Assistance Project, a joint grant proposal between Arizona Voice for Crime Victims and ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, was forced to close due to declining revenues.  Not true.  The services provided under that program continue to this day.

I support this legislation because it will help victims exercise the rights to which they are entitled under our Constitution and receive needed services.  That most members of our Legislature also support it is not an indication of sinister machinations.  It’s a sign of how far our state has come in recognizing and living up to the ideal of treating crime victims with fairness, dignity and respect.

Finally, no one in Arizona or national politics has advocated as long or as passionately for the rights of crime victims as Steve Twist.  It is simply unfair to ascribe self-serving motives to his support for this legislation.  As we commemorate National Crime Victims’ Rights Week this week, now is not the time to question the sincerity of those who have done so much for crime victims, or the intent of legislation that seeks to do more.

— Bill Montgomery is Maricopa County Attorney.

4 comments

  1. A perspective from an involved citizen, constituent, voter and taxpayer in response to Mr. Montgomery. Arizona’s broken justice system should by your TOP PRIORITY. Thousands of un-investigated CPS cases, child abuse, and over 432 un-investigated child sex crimes cases since 2005. Where was Victim’s Rights then, except to help the devious get money and win their cases by getting there first?

    Who are the real victims in a broken criminal justice system with laws written by Steven Twist? He may be your dear friend, but he is not the friend of the people or a friend to a fair and equal justice system.

    We, the people, have heard Steven Twist speak at the state legislature, enough to know that he bragged about writing all of Arizona’s criminal laws, which, afterwards, we felt, now we know who created Arizona’s broken criminal justice system, since he took so much credit for them. Any criticism he receives is well-deserved.

    Steven Twist has bragged at the Sentencing Committee hearings about writing all Arizona’s criminal laws, Victim’s Rights, Truth-in-Sentencing, three-strikes laws, etc. Most people testified and were allowed 2 minutes. Twist spoke from the audience for almost one-half hour. No wonder Arizona’s criminal justice system is broken! We heard it for ourselves.

    Informed, concerned citizens participated for years on House Rep. Cecil Ash’s Sentencing Committee and learned about Arizona’s failed laws, the mass incarceration of Arizona’s people, wrongful convictions, the decades long sentences meted out by the Maricopa County Attorney’s office without a second thought to the innocent defendants, their children and families – whose lives were destroyed forever – urning Arizona into a failed, self-destructing state that puts ALL at risk for harm.

    Packed hearing rooms of people heard Steven Twist brag at the podium and for almost 1/2 hour, speaking from the audience, where everyone else was limited to two minutes, at a House Sentencing Committee hearing under House Rep. Cecil Ash, Chair. Ash invited the public to get involved on the committee and many did participate along with experts in the field, who spent years working on it.

    So when we fast forward to 2014, and another “Victim’s Rights bill” emerges — written by House Speaker Tobin, his co-campaign manager Steven Twist and their friend MCAO Montgomery, who will controls “Victim’s Rights”, we find it more than disturbing. People should be outraged.

    HB2625 passed the House with no public input or media coverage other than the paid subscription Arizona Capitol Times. It reeks of conflict of interest and moving even more power into the hands of the Maricopa County Attorney’s office, which has failed to help innocent people or to “right the wrongs” of their office, that has gone on for decades. Creating a more unjust system for defendants is wrong.

    We find the Gary Grado’s article, “Victims’ rights bill aims to boost nonprofit’s revenues” 4/7/2014) very credible and timely, on the heels of SB1062 discrimination bill, and the decades long “culture” of taking individuals’ rights away and targeting those they do not like or want — the “disposable” people. Where enemies and an evil spouse from the adversarial Family Court, can get rid of their enemy so easily.

    It’s time for MCAO Montgomery to address the TRUE VICTIMS in Arizona — those who are victims of Arizona’s broken justice system, that the prosecutors perpetuate rather than correct — the innocent, those who have been falsely accused, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully imprisoned (silenced for decades behind bars with Arizona’s draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws, while the prosecutors move on and up in their careers – in a culture of “convictions at all costs”. Many have witnessed the power play in the courtrooms, controlled by prosecutors, NOT by judges and live at the state legislature like “prosecutor lobbyists” paid for by the taxpayers. A place where they arrive en masse to fight against fair justice for the people. This is disturbing and unconscionable.

    Victim’s Rights laws have taken away presumption of innocence and due process the defendant, which must be restored. Arizona’s justice system is dramatically skewed in favor of the prosecutors with Victim’s Rights laws and Arizona’s failed draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Where a false allegation can make a person NON-bondable and coerce a “plea”(felon/convict) instead of facing decades in prison if they dare go to trial.

    Innocent lives are being destroyed daily by the prosecutors and the courts. If a doctor or nurse, who destroyed a single life, and who handle lives daily, they would be sitting in prison. But prosecutors have absolute immunity and have no accountability, while they determine who goes to prison and for how long. They determine who lives and who shall die. Which one of you have the credibility to engender trust?

    Arizona’s failed sentencing laws that sentence a non-violent, first offender to 75 years in prison – a defacto life sentence! Who’s paying for that? Who among the top prosecutors are concerned about wasting taxpayers’ dollars? Laws and agenda written and pushed by Steven Twist. He like others are not perfect and need to look at the bigger picture of fair administration of justice rather than money and power grabbing, which seems to be “standard operating procedure” among the states prosecutors, many who have moved up to judge positions.

    HB2625 was ram-rodded through the House, now sitting in the Senate Rules committee. All done without public input and launched around a “feel-good” luncheon. Cheap politics!

    How about the priority of “fair administration of justice: for all? How does that happen in a state that favors the mass incarceration of its people, where the growing mass industrial prison complex and its profiteers dominate the state budget, the state agencies and the prosecutors?

    Prosecutors, who remain ignorant of wrongful convictions and Brady violations, or are simply lying or misleading judges and the public? How is that fair justice for all?

    Almost 7,000 un-investigated CPS cases, over 432 un-investigated child sex crimes cases since 2005 under Maricopa County Attorney office and Maricopa County Sheriff’s office? And where was Victim’s Rights department then? It should be shut down.

    Victim’s Rights has been a failed sham, a money and power grabber for the prosecutors who ‘control” the criminal justice system, courts and who gets sent to prison and for how long, and determine who lives and who dies in the state. Where there is NO oversight, NO transparency and NO accountability, while the victims have not been served and the devious have learned how to “game” the system. Why not address that abuse and those who have turned into victims with this powerful tool of destruction?

    Stop deceiving the public and taxpayers with another “feel-good” Victim’s Rights bill, controlled by the prosecutors. People were not fooled by SB1062 and we are paying attention.

    No where has the abuse of the Victim’s Rights, “easy” money for victims, and the winning side of a case, ever been acknowledged or addressed.

    Under, then ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas (disbarred April 2012 abuse of power and malicious prosecution), as he stood at the podium on TV, alongside his top victim’s rights advocate, soliciting for child molestation business with an offer of $5,000-$20,000? Really? Who’s money was it? The federal government where quotas had to be met?

    Thomas/Victim’s Rights called out for anyone who was a victim (call in to Silent Witness). We do know of young girls who were sexually abused or raped by church counselors in Mesa, who called in and never received a call back. They tried other agencies and there was no help. This turns “Victim’s Rights” into a sham that should be opened for outside investigation and an audit, that is made public.

    Victims Rights is controlled by the prosecutors, another powerful tool to win “easy” convictions, “easy” votes and for financial gain in a highly political setting with a luncheon to set the stage. Purely political.

    Why are the state prosecutors, led by the MCAO, fighting AGAINST the people, who packed the hearing rooms of the House Sentencing Committee, for meaningful reform of Arizona’s broken criminal justice system and draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws?

    Why have the prosecutors, for years now, been fighting against the people who wanted reform of Arizona’s failed draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws? Laws that are unsustainable for the taxpayers? Other conservative states have reformed their sentencing and criminal justice laws, have cut their prison populations and saved THEIR taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

    MCAO Bill Montgomery should be focused on restoring justice and “righting the wrongs” after inheriting the over 200,000 felony CASES in one term in office, by Andrew Thomas / Lisa Aubuchon( both disbarred 2012) / Rachel Alexander (sanctioned) after their “reign of terror” on innocent people, the community and the justice system which rendered it broken and ineffective. Appeals courts judges overwhelmed with cases they cannot handle, so simply “rubber-stamp” rule “denied” without even reading them. This is NOT fair administration of justice for a defendant, as these cases takes years before the “rubber stamp” is applied.

    Why wouldn’t a true minister of justice — the job description of a prosecutor — work on “righting the wrongs” after a decades long “culture of abuse” in the Maricopa County Attorney’s office be TOP PRIORITY?

    Where is a Maricopa County Conviction Integrity Unit, to correct the wrongful conviction of an innocent man or women? Others counties and states have implemented CIU’s, for years, because of the hundreds of wrongful convictions that demand correction. Instead the top prosecutors have swept the disgraced and disbarred ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas’ over 200,000 felony CASES, under the rug, wasting millions of taxpayers’ dollars? With simply stating there are NO wrongful convictions in Arizona. there are NO Brady violations in Arizona — really?

    It’s time to address and identify who the “true” victims are across state. Those destroyed by a wrecking ball of a broken criminal justice system that has been politicized into an unjust system where money and power are all that matters. There is no good intention here, because of the long established track record. Introducing this bill at a lovely luncheon is a disservice to the public, who never had a chance to have dialog. The Tobin / Twist / Montgomery bill HB2625, should die in the Senate rules committee where we’ve uncovered it!

  2. Corrections could not be made to the above reply, without an “edit” button, which is sorely needed. Small fonts size, Auto-fill quirks, problems. But people will get the drift in each of the many issues we find disturbing that are all inter-related and self-destructing Arizona. Victims are used for political and financial gain. Period.

    The House Speaker Tobin / his co-campaign manager Steven Twist / MCAO Bill Montgomery’s HB2625 Victim’s Rights bill, raises serious disturbing questions and should be turned down. Restore presumption of innocence and peoples’ rights in Arizona’s justice system.

  3. The group of innocent victims eliminated from the Victim’s Rights …

    Wrongful Liberty, the tragic consequence of wrongful conviction.

    The Mayhem of Wrongful Liberty Documenting the Crimes of True Perpetrators in Cases of Wrongful Incarceration

    Frank R. Baumgartner1 Amanda Grigg2 Rachelle Ramìrez3 Kenneth J. Rose4
    J. Sawyer Lucy5

    Abstract
    When the wrong individual is incarcerated for a crime they did not commit, they suffer a terrible injustice. But they are not alone. The victims of the crime suffer in multiple ways: from a false assurance that the crime has been solved, possibly from participating as a witness leading to a wrongful conviction, and later from the consequences of exoneration. These events may leave the original crime victim doubly victimized; once by the criminal and then by the criminal justice system. But the wrongs may also include a third category of innocent victims. When the state arrests and incarcerates the wrong person, the true perpetrator remains at liberty. In many cases these individuals commit a series of crimes during this period of “wrongful liberty” (which we define as the period between the original crime and when the true perpetrator is arrested). In recent years, North Carolina has seen 36 exonerations. Of these cases, we have identified nine cases where the true perpetrator of the original crime was later convicted.”

  4. This is the essence of Maricopa County’s legal and justice system… and add prison profiteering to the list. Taxpayers are their “customers” and foot the bill.

    AZ MCAO: “County attorney gets tough; defenders get rich” by Jill Redhage 2007
    http://bit.ly/1bVHc9a

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