Marsy’s Law for Florida has filed a petition for a Writ of Prohibition with the First District Court of Appeal on behalf of a Washington County child who was sexually assaulted by a juvenile. The petition asks the court to direct the presiding judge to take no further action on this case because he denied the victim’s constitutional rights, including the right to counsel. A copy of the petition, which was filed last week, is attached. Following the filing of the petition, the court has issued a Rule to Show Cause and has given the Respondents until September 20 to show why the court should not grant the relief sought by the petition.
At the defense counsel’s request, the presiding judge struck the Notices of Appearances filed by counsel for the victim, effectively silencing the voice of the eight-year-old victim. He also prohibited counsel for the victim from being heard on multiple motions they had filed seeking the enforcement of the victim’s rights and from representing the victim in any proceeding going forward.
In its petition, Marsy’s Law for Florida, which is now serving as co-counsel on this case, argues that striking the victim’s attorneys’ notices of appearance, summarily denying their filed motions, and prohibiting their further participation in the case is an unconstitutional attempt by the presiding judge to act beyond his jurisdiction.
“As someone familiar with the justice system, I knew immediately that my child’s rights were being violated. Unfortunately, it seems this happens all the time and we were not being treated any differently than other victims in the past,” said attorney Michelle Blankenship Jordan, the mother of the victim. “Even though the state constitution changed on January 8, 2019, we are still having to fight for these rights to be enforced. It is beyond frustrating that we continue to see this kind of miscarriage of justice when high-profile cases such as Jeffrey Epstein’s have led to heightened awareness of why victims’ rights laws are so critical. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Nicholas and Marsy’s Law for Florida, my child and all victims in Florida now have enforceable rights that must be respected and protected the same as the defendant’s. I’m thankful to my attorney Pamela Marsh and the Marsy’s Law legal team for standing up for my daughter and her rights in court.”
If the Writ of Prohibition is not granted, the victim’s constitutional rights will be lost forever. The judge will be able to move forward with further proceedings in this case, including the juvenile delinquent’s sentencing in mid-September, without any meaningful participation by the victim or her family.
“We are working hard to help everyone involved in the criminal justice system understand that the system is now different because the people of Florida have decided that victims will have meaningful and enforceable rights. This case is part of that effort. Victim notice, victim presence, and the victim’s voice are no longer optional – they are mandatory. The changes in how Florida treats victims must be respected by judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and everyone else involved in the system even if it means they can’t do things the ‘way they have always’ done them in the past. These changes will make the system better and that is something of which everyone can be proud,” said Paul Hawkes, Marsy’s Law for Florida counsel. “Marsy’s Law for Florida will continue to help crime victims take legal action when appropriate to protect and enforce their constitutional rights.”
This is the second case in which Marsy’s Law for Florida has taken legal action in support of crime victims’ rights. Earlier this summer, Marsy’s Law for Florida filed an amicus brief with the 10th Judicial Circuit in support of Polk County victim Misty Hicks’ right to have standing in court. That case is ongoing and Marsy’s Law for Florida remains involved.
A specific set of clear, enforceable crime victims’ rights was placed in the Florida Constitution following the passage of Amendment 6 this past November. These rights were officially enacted on January 8, 2019, and are commonly referred to as Marsy’s Law for Florida rights.
For more information on Marsy’s Law for Florida, visit marsyslawforfl.com.
About Marsy’s Law
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.