TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Supreme Court of Florida on Thursday ruled that even though Amendment 6 contains multiple issues, it can stay on the ballot.
Amendment 6 links three proposals that create a bill of rights for crime victims and set new requirements for judges. There is the bill of rights, modeled after Marsy's Law in California, a hike in the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75, and a rule barring judges from deferring to administrative agencies' interpretations of a rule or statute when ruling in cases involving those laws.
But much of what the amendment seeks for victims is already in the Constitution.
In television ads supporting Amendment 6, actor Kelsey Grammer talks of losing his father and sister, who were killed six years apart.
“In my sister's case, I’ve been allowed a voice in the parole hearings of her killers, but that’s not always the case in Florida," Grammar said.
Richard Greenberg, president of the Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said, "That's completely false."
The Constitution already requires and the parole authority in Florida, now called the Commission on Offender Review, regularly hears from victims.
Last year, the commission assisted more than 21,000 victims.
“As an inmate comes up for an interview, our victims' services unit will reach out to the victim or their family members and let them know that is coming down the pipeline. They will be scheduled for a hearing and they are welcome to appear," said Kelly Corder, with the Commission on Offender Review.
Amendment sponsor Tim Cerio praised parole officials, but said not every agency does as well.
"Marsy’s Law will still be there if something is missed," Cerio said.
Currently, the Constitution uses 55 words to spell out victims rights.
Amendment 6 would add 15 more. Among them, judges must justify why a defendant isn’t brought to trial within 60 days.
"The problem with Amendment 6 is that it's going to let the victims run the show," Greenberg said. "They’re going to be able to tell the prosecutors, judges and law enforcement on how to handle the case."
Florida was one of the first to adopt a victims rights clause in 1988.
Each of the state's 20 prosecutors, as well as the attorney general, have victims' rights advocates in their offices.
Billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III is the money behind the amendment. He was arrested in August in Las Vegas on suspicion of narcotics trafficking.