Implementation of Marsy’s Law delays hearing
The state’s new Marsy’s Law, which enshrined victims’ rights in the state constitution, continues to complicate day to day court hearings in Minot.
On Wednesday, Troy Loney was prepared to plead guilty to charges in a Christmas Day burglary and terrorizing case.
However, Ward County Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher Nelson said the alleged victim in the case might want to testify at the hearing, which had not been arranged and the case would have to be pushed back another five weeks.
Loney’s attorney, Ashley Flagstad, pointed out that her client has due process rights and a hearing in the case had already been pushed back once before.
Judge Todd Cresap was annoyed and told Nelson that it is the responsibility of the state’s attorney’s office to contact victims and tell them when and where they can speak at a hearing. He also told Nelson that such hearings have to be scheduled separately from hearings for other defendants because of the amount of time involved.
While victims have a right to be heard under Marsy’s Law, which voters approved a few years ago, Cresap said that right is not unlimited.
“It’s not a constitutional right at their whim,” said Cresap. “The victims don’t get to set court procedure.”
Cresap said he had delivered the same instructions to the state’s attorney’s office during his last court rotation last month and apparently his message didn’t get through.
Marsy’s Law considerations will be the problem of the state’s attorney’s office, not the judge, at least in his courtroom, said Cresap. If the same situation arises again, Cresap said he will continue with the court hearing regardless of whether the victim is there to testify.
Cresap also suggested that the state’s attorney’s office, public defenders and judges schedule a meeting to determine how to handle such cases in a more efficient manner.
Since the passage of Marsy’s Law, court hearings have been delayed because victims had not been notified or wanted to testify at hearings. The state’s attorney’s office, in past cases, has also refused to turn over victim’s names and other information to defense attorneys without court orders, which further delays proceedings.