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March 6, 2007

Are there Libby victims (and will they seek to testify)?

Back in October 2004, Congress enacted a comprehensive Crime Victims' Rights Act (codified at 18 USC § 3771).  Leading opinions on the CVRA from the Ninth Circuit and from District Judge Paul Cassell indicate that the CVRA guarantees, inter alia, that victims of all crimes have a right to allocute at sentencing.

In the wake of the Lewis Libby verdict, I am wondering whether his crimes have any victims and/or who might reasonably claim to be victims under the CVRA and demand a right to testify at his sentencing.  Libby's crimes of obstruction of justice and perjury might technically be victimless under the CVRA terms.  That said, one can readily imagine Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame claiming to be victims and trying to assert rights under the CVRA.  (Notably, even if Wilson and Plame do not have rights under the CVRA, the sentencing judge likely would have discretion to hear from them if he wanted to.)

Moreover, given the political dynamics surround this case, I cannot help but wonder if some other folks might seek to assert CVRA rights as victims (if only to have a high-profile soapbox).  Judge Cassell's CVRA opinion has explained that the CVRA sought to expand broadly victims rights at sentencing:

[T]he CVRA extends its rights more broadly [than prior law to extend] to all crime victims, that is, to any "person directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a Federal offense." The CVRA definition is not limited to certain kinds of crimes.  To the contrary, the sponsors of the CVRA described this as "an intentionally broad definition because all victims of crime deserve to have their rights protected."

Are there others persons beyond Wilson or Plame who might be able to plausibly claim they were "directly and proximately harmed" as a result of Libby's offenses?

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March 6, 2007 at 09:10 PM | Permalink


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The act states a crime victim has : (4) The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.

Couldn't a judge say I will hear from you in writing. Where, in this langauge, is it gauranteed that you a crime victim has the right of allocution. Maybe there are cases or other principles that apply, but I would think a judge could (but none ever would) say communicate in writing.

Posted by: Michael Hadley | Mar 6, 2007 11:43:57 PM

The Cassell and Ninth Circuit opinions address this exact issue, Michael.

Posted by: Doug B. | Mar 7, 2007 6:48:27 AM

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