STATEMENT: Regarding Media Bias Related to Crime Victims’ Rights
July 16, 2021
Statement By: Paul Hawkes, Marsy’s Law for Florida Counsel
“Today I will be participating in a panel discussion regarding Marsy’s Law for Florida taking place at the Florida Press Association annual conference. While I anticipate that I will be the only proponent of Marsy’s Law on the panel and the conversation will be fairly one-sided, I find it critical that we continue to educate every Florida citizen about the crime victims’ rights and protections now available to them thanks to Marsy’s Law for Florida.
The passage of Marsy’s Law took Florida into the modern era of crime victims’ rights and replaced 30-year-old crime victims’ rights language in our state constitution that didn’t fully encompass the needs of victims. However, members of the Florida press have continued to vilify the law and have largely ignored the significant progress we have made on behalf of crime victims.
They focus on just one of the 19 rights and protections Marsy’s Law provides – the right for crime victims to prevent the automatic public disclosure of personally identifiable information. The media outcry over this right has centered on it somehow impacting the public’s and the media’s right to know information about crimes that have been committed in their area. Under Marsy’s Law for Florida, government entities are free to release general information about the victim – gender, age and general location of where the crime took place – as long as it does not identify the person.
In no way does the public or the media need to know the name of the victim. Yet time and time again, members of the press have attacked a crime victims’ right to privacy amid often tragic circumstances. Revictimizing victims of crime does nothing to serve public safety. It is only to satisfy morbid curiosity and attain precious clicks on a news story.
Marsy’s Law for Florida is more than this one right and crime victims have gained so much by its passage. Victims now have the right to be notified of proceedings involving their case, the right to be present at these proceedings, the right to be heard in court, the right to confer with the prosecutor and the right to be notified if their assailant’s incarceration status has changed.
These are incredibly powerful and positive changes that have given crime victims the dignity and respect they deserve and brought better balance to our criminal justice system.”