Who’s the Victim When it Comes to Marsy’s Law

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Marsy’s Law is now part of North Dakota’s constitution.

It lists rights of crime victims and even tries to spell out who qualifies as a victim.

But what does that mean to prosecutors in the state.

“This guy here, he’s got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Multiple cases with multiple victims,” said Roza Larson the Ward County State’s Attorney.

And all of those victims need to be kept abreast of what’s happening in the cases – a tall order. One that’s taken on in Ward County by these two Victim-Witness Coordinators.

“We do the best we can to answer their questions throughout the process,” said Victim/Witness Coordinator Karen Pfeifer.

Karen Pfeifer has been chatting by phone, email, and in person with victims and witnesses for six years. She gets emotional just thinking about how the job impacts her and her clients.

“There’s many times where you end up taking it home in the evening because you’re so passionate about these victims and keeping them informed,” Pfeifer said.

But who qualifies as a victim? State’s Attorney Roza Larson says it’s a question made murky by Marsy’s Law.

“It’s a fine line…,” said Larson.

But once over that fine line, it’s still in question as to whether a victim must actively seek protection from having information released – or if it’s assumed that the victim gets the protection. Larson says her office considers privacy most important.

(Roza Larson, Ward County State’s Attorney) “At the time they’re put in that situation where they’re victims, they’ve got a lot going on in their heads, their emotions, they don’t quite grasp that, oh I have these rights and I have to start asserting them.”

And in the victim-witness coordinator office, they respect that privacy while offering as much information on a case as possible.

“There are times where it’s very demanding and as you can see, our desks are just bursting at the seams but we’re passionate about it and we appreciate being that source of information within the office,” said Pfeifer.

“This for example, this file represents one defendant…,” said Larson.

And with piles of files like these, there are many people for whom the information is critical.

“Eight files but there’s multiple counts in each one with multiple victims…,” Larson added.

Marsy’s Law is a constitutional amendment enacted by a statewide vote in November.

 

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