A judge said the Wisconsin ballot question on “Marsy’s Law,” the state constitutional amendment approved by voters that gave greater rights to crime victims, was improperly worded, but he did not immediately nullify the law, reports the Wisconsin State Journal. Circuit Judge Frank Remington put his ruling on hold pending an appeal that could wind up before the state Supreme Court. Remington said that as presented to voters, the ballot question inadequately spelled out the effect the amendment would have on the rights of people accused of crimes. Had the question been broken into two parts — one addressing greater rights for victims and another on the diminishment of the rights of the accused — the voters would have been better informed, he wrote.
“Voters deserve to know what they are voting on,” Remington wrote. “Only by framing a question that reasonably, intelligently and fairly comprised or referenced every essential (element) of the amendment, could the voters decide whether and how to change the rights of persons accused of crimes.” He called the wording of the issue in a single question “a mistake of constitutional proportions.” Wsconsin’s Marsy’s Law was approved by 75 percent of voters in April. It is named for Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California woman killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend, who was released from jail without notification of Nicholas. Versions of the law have been enacted in several states. Since Marsy’s Law has taken effect, public records advocates have raised concerns that it is being used to curtail access to public information. Craig Johnson, president of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, which filed the lawsuit challenging the measure, called the decision “a big victory not only for those involved in the criminal justice system but the voters of Wisconsin” to be fully informed about what they are voting on.