New Hampshire Passes Historic Legislation for Crime Victims Equality

On March 26th the New Hampshire House of Representatives became the first legislative body in the country to pass a crime victims equality act to prohibit discrimination against family members of murder victims who oppose the death penalty. HB 370, “An act relative to the treatment of victims of crime”, was passed by a 213-114 margin. This bill amends New Hampshire’s Crime Victims Bill of Rights by adding this new right to crime victims:

” 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.”

Not all victims feel the same way about the death penalty. In fact, the sponsor of HB 370, Rep. Renny Cushing, is himself a murder victim’s family member whose father was murdered in 1988.

The Tennessee Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty, which met from October 2007-February 2009, also discussed a process for ensuring that all victims’ families are treated the same by the system regardless of their position on the death penalty. Charles Strobel, whose mother was murdered and who represented Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights on the Tennessee Study Committee, suggested the creation of an independent office for the victim’s advocate. Currently, the victim’s advocate is located in the office of the district attorney, the same office which decides whether or not to seek the death penalty.

Congratulations to New Hampshire for this legislation.

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