Can Crime Victims Be Barred From Advocating For Defendants In Court?


A pending Colorado case raises a profound question that few judges (or prosecutors or jurors) ever have to confront, reports What happens when the victims of violent crime seek to speak out on behalf of the defendant and not the state? What happens when the family member of a murder victim seeks leave to beg jurors at sentencing to spare the life of the man who killed their son? What responsibility does the prosecutor have in that case? What obligations do the courts have? Do victims’ rights sound only when they favor the government and the harshest sentence, or do they sound as well when they cry out for mercy?

Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler wants to block one couple’s efforts to speak out against the death penalty for the man who murdered their child. Brauchler seeks to bar Bob and Lola Autobee from participating in the sentencing phase of the trial of Edward Montour, their son’s killer. The law only guarantees the rights of victims to “discuss the harm that resulted from the crime,” Brauchler argues. Andrew Cohen writes, “I haven’t been able to find a single victims’ right advocate who believes that’s true.”

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