Washington, D.C., defense attorney Barry Boss used the occasion of the annual national crime victims recognition this week to argue that victims should not have the “right to serve as de facto prosecutors, a practice that is quietly insinuating itself into the legal system.” Writing in the Washington Post, Boss cites proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure under the 2004 Crime Victims’ Rights Act. One federal judge said the law makes victims “independent participant[s] in the proceedings” and “commands that victims should be treated equally with the defendant, defense counsel, and the prosecutor.”
Boss says that if victims are unhappy with how a prosecutor or trial court has treated them, they are permitted to seek relief in a U.S. Court of Appeals, which must rule on their application within 72 hours (an unprecedented remedy). Boss writes that any rights provided to victims must come at the expense of the defendant. Providing the victim with a role in the prosecution assumes a crime has been committed, despite the constitutional proposition that the accused is presumed innocent. Turning victims into members of the prosecution team distorts a process carefully constructed more than 200 years ago that avoided vigilante justice or prosecution for personal ends in favor of prosecution by the state with significant rights for the accused, Boss says.