The “Victimization” of America
The United States has been in a wave of “victimization” since the late 1980's. Many, many states and the federal government have codified the rights of victims, in what are usually called Victim’s Rights Bills”. Arizona is one of those states. It seems that society as a whole has become wrapped up in being a victim. One only has to look at the skyrocketing rates of disability claims, the rise of post traumatic stress disorder diagnoses (PTSD), the legislatures that have jumped on the bandwagon to protect so-called victims and even the growth of people using “service dogs” to see how politically correct it has become to be a victim of something.
The problem is that your level of “victimization” depends on how you “feel”. In the criminal arena it is not unusual to find a “victim” such as a lady that had her kids bicycle stolen out of the garage to want the death penalty for the defendant. She says she needs “closure” whatever in the hell that is. I believe that “closure” is just a politically correct term for vengeance. The problem is that the political and legal establishment has embodied victims with a great deal of power. In Arizona they have a say in trial dates, plea agreements and presence in court hearings wherein they might otherwise be precluded. All states and the federal government have what is called “The Rule on Witnesses” which allows the court to exclude all witnesses except the one testifying. The purpose of such a rule is obvious. If witnesses could stay in the courtroom and hear what everyone else said, they could change their testimony to fit that of the witness that just testified.
Victims have always had input into the procedures in a criminal case. A victim could always tell a judge at sentencing how the crime has affected them. Restitution for any financial loss has always been available to require a defendant to pay for any economic loss. But somewhere, somehow, it became important to allow victims to be the center of attention and to protect them.
Even more problematic is that, in Arizona, the prosecutor can invoke the right of the victim not to be interviewed by the defense. I have had many, many so-called victims call me to talk to me and I have had to tell them that the prosecutor has invoked their right to not be interviewed. This is a very common occurrence in domestic violence cases where, typically, the husband and wife are arguing and a neighbor calls the cops. You are probably thinking “You can’t get arrested for arguing with your wife”. Sure you can, in Arizona it is called; - 'Domestic Violence - Disorderly Conduct.' Many times it is the actual prosecution that is causing more damage to a relationship than the argument ever caused.
The Founding Fathers recognized that it is the individual that is victimized by any proceeding that involves the unequal fight between the government and a single person. That is why we have the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers realized that it was the state, or government, that has all the resources, the time, the money and the power. The Bill of Rights was passed to make it a fairer fight. The government has to gather all the evidence, the burden is for the government to prove its case, not that the defendant probably did it but that the defendant did it beyond a reasonable doubt. Additionally an individual cannot be forced to testify and witnesses can be forced to come to court, by subpoena, to testify for the defendant. When was the last time you heard Thomas Jefferson’s quote that “It is better than one thousand guilty men go free than for a single innocent man be convicted”? Yeah, I thought so.