Ohio crime victims’ rights issue could face court challenge

By Julie Carr Smyth

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS– The American Civil Liberties Union was weighing a legal challenge to the crime victim rights amendment a day after it was overwhelmingly approved by Ohio voters.

Issue 1, dubbed Marsy’s Law, amends the Ohio Constitution to give crime victims and their families the same rights as the accused, including notice of court proceedings, input on plea deals and the opportunity to tell their stories.

It swept to victory in all 88 counties Tuesday, receiving nearly 83 percent support statewide after an $8 million-plus campaign featuring “Frasier” actor Kelsey Grammer and no organized opposition.

A second ballot issue aimed at curbing skyrocketing drug costs lost in a landslide with nearly 80 percent opposition.

ACLU of Ohio spokesman Mike Brickner said the organization is watching to see how Marsy’s Law is implemented across Ohio.

The organization is concerned that, in its effort to protect victims, it may erode the rights of the accused — who face a loss of their liberty through the justice system, he said.

“The concern here is to assure that before they put someone in jail or prison, or put them on community control, that we have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they actually are guilty,” he said. “That’s why we have this system of due process and speedy and fair trials, and, unfortunately, Marsy’s Law may hinder that.”

The measure is part of a multi-state campaign championed by California billionaire Henry Nicholas, whose sister was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. The accused was released on bail a week after her murder without her family being told.

Previous states to pass the measure are South Dakota, North Dakota, California, Illinois and Montana.

The House Speaker in South Dakota is pushing to give voters a chance to scrap the amendment in that state, pointing to unintended consequences including diminished access to vehicle crash reports. In Montana, the high court ruled a Marsy’s Law amendment unconstitutional last week following a legal challenge by the ACLU and others.

However, in striking it down, Montana justices made clear their decision was based on how the multi-pronged law was presented to voters, not the merits of the changes themselves.

Aaron Marshall, a spokesman for the Marsy’s Law campaign, said both the Ohio attorney general and the state’s bipartisan Ballot Board reviewed and signed off on the fact that Issue 1 involved only a single subject.

“There are two different checks on that issue in Ohio, so we’re confident the state’s system is comprehensive and that Ohio’s proposal has been adequately looked at,” he said.

Voters approve most Ohio school levies

CINCINNATI — Schools officials say Ohio voters have approved the majority of ballot measures for funding local schools.

The Ohio School Boards Association says 87 out of 122 issues on Tuesday’s ballots around the state were passed. The Columbus-based association says 23 of 53 new money requests were approved, while 64 of 69 renewal or replacement issues passed.

The association says Ohio voters approved 115 out of 150 school tax issues in the November 2016 elections. Voters in Cincinnati and Toledo this Tuesday both approved five-year renewal issues for their city public schools.

Ex-school leader elected to board

TOLEDO — A former Ohio school superintendent who resigned amid an investigation and was later banned from district property has been elected to its school board.

Voters in Toledo’s Washington Local district gave Patrick Hickey one of three open spots on the school board Tuesday.

Hickey resigned as superintendent in 2015 before the school board could consider a resolution to fire him. The district had hired attorneys to investigate allegations of misspent funds and Hickey’s failure to tell school leaders he’d been accused of inappropriate relationships with students in Michigan decades ago.

Hickey has denied those allegations.

The school board banned him from district property last year after officials said he verbally abused referees at a basketball game and harassed school employees.

That ban is still in place.