Illinois Crime Victims Seek Legal Recourse for Violated Rights


Illinois advocacy groups have joined a national push to amend state constitutions and give teeth to existing victims’-rights statutes, reports the Chicago Tribune. For example, the Illinois Constitution provides 10 rights for crime victims, including that they be treated with respect, given notice of court hearings and be allowed to attend trials and present victim-impact statements. But if those rights are violated, there’s no mechanism for a crime victim to appeal to a higher court. Illinois is the only state whose constitution specifically prohibits victims from seeking legal remedy through appeal.

Denise Rotheimer, whose daughter was sexually assaulted as an adolescent, wants the right to sue the Lake County, Ill., prosecutors who sent the offender to jail, saying they defamed her child by telling the judge that the girl “had issues.” But she learned that the rights of crime victims are unenforceable, after floundering through a complex criminal justice system that critics say is weighted toward ensuring the rights of the accused. Rotheimer and her daughter, now 21, have filed a federal lawsuit against county and state officials. She hopes it leads to a precedent that prosecutors can be held legally accountable.

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