Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dignity Restored

Renny Cushing is in Italy representing MVFHR at a meeting of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty steering committee. Among other business, the group will be beginning to plan the Fourth World Congress Against the Death Penalty, a gathering that will take place next February.

Last week, in addition to passing the death penalty study commission and repeal bills, the New Hampshire House became the first legislative body in the country to pass legislation that prohibits discrimination against victims who oppose the death penalty. House Bill 370, "An act relative to the treatment of victims of crime," passed 213-114. The bill amends New Hampshire's Crime Victims Bill of Rights by adding this section:

"The right to all federal and state constitutional rights guaranteed to all victims of crime on an equal basis, and notwithstanding the provisions of any laws on capital punishment, the right not to be discriminated against or have their rights as a victim denied, diminished, expanded, or enhanced on the basis of the victim’s support for, opposition to, or neutrality on the death penalty."

For several years, we've been documenting instances of discrimination by prosecutors, judges, and victims' advocates against victims based on their opposition to the death penalty. In the report Dignity Denied: The Experience of Murder Victims' Families Who Oppose the Death Penalty, we proposed model legislation, the Crime Victims' Equality Act, and last week's New Hampshire legislation is based on this model. We hope that other states will now introduce similar legislation.

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