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National Crime Victim Law Institute

NCVLI Fights for a Victim’s Right for Appellate Review!

November 28, 2011

More than 26 years ago, Douglas Carter brutally murdered Eva Olesen and was convicted. Over the years he has challenged his conviction through a number of appellate devices. For more than nine years his most recent petition challenging his conviction has been pending in federal trial court in Utah.  The state asked the trial court to dismiss the offender’s remaining claims; and the Victim’s son, represented by two of NCVLI’s partner clinics - the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center and the Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic, also asked for dismissal, asserting the victim’s rights to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and to fairness.  The trial court denied these requests.  When it did so, it failed to address the Victim’s separate assertions, instead commenting only on the state’s arguments.  This meant that once again a victim’s independent rights were ignored. 

The clinics filed for review in the appellate court in the 10th Circuit. While the appellate court noted that the trial court should have done more to specifically address the victim’s issues, it did not find error.  Last week the clinics sought rehearing en banc - a hearing by all judges of court instead of just the panel that initially heard the case.  This is when NCVLI joined, submitting an amicus brief.  We argued that victims are entitled to traditional appellate review and that failing to address the victim’s rights on the record violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. 

These procedural issues are critical for victims because the process by which an appellate court reviews a trial court’s decision and whether courts are required to state reasons for denying rights on the record will either ensure that victims are truly heard or “[leave victims] to the mercy of the very trial court that may have erred,” 150 CONG. REC. S4270 (April 22, 2004) (statement of Senator Kyl).  NCVLI and our partner clinics are fighting to ensure that victims are truly heard!

 

Our amicus briefs educate the courts about how their decisions will impact victims and move us a step closer to ensuring that each case fulfills its potential to improve the landscape for future victims by setting positive legal precedent.  Donate today to help us build a better future for victims!