Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 243
April 28, 1997

Who Speaks for the Victims?


Term limit and balanced-budget move aside. The latest proposal to amend our Constitution provides for victim's rights. If the Constitution protects criminal's rights, why not victim's rights?-so the argument goes.

Victims would be notified of hearings, given a voice on pre-trial release and sentence bargaining, allowed to attend trial and parole hearings, and be provided with restitution. Negated, for example, would be the defense tactic in which victims of a crime are subpoenaed in order to exclude them from the courtroom.

Why now in our history is such an amendment being proposed?

Many factors propel the amendment forward, but I believe that the enraging factor is the silence, the unresponsive silence of our criminal justice system to a victim's pain and fear.

"On the advice of counsel, I cannot comment," is the standard response to TV reporters. It is part of the pall of silence-by all parties-smothering that which victims so desperately need: information, sympathy, admission of guilt, and satisfaction that justice is at least in process if not done. None of that is currently forthcoming and, with the lengthy wait for a trial, anger festers in the victim's gut. Gnawing fear also, if the person is out on bail.

Once upon a time, a common bit of marital advice (derived from the Bible)was: "Don't go to sleep angry." Stewing in anger can only have a baleful effect on a relationship. No less is that true of societal relationships.

Watching the unrelenting and devastating waters of the Red River in Grand Forks makes vivid the passionate plea of the Old Testament prophet Amos:

Let justice well up like a river
and righteousness like a torrential stream.

Such passion is moving today as well.


--Robert H. Tucker
28 April 1997


© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
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