Our goal is to see NY state introduce a bill around the Homicide Victims’ Rights Act that’s specifically tailored to NY State criminal law and procedures.

The pursuit of justice is a fundamental right, one that every individual deserves regardless of the circumstances. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to address the needs of the families of homicide victims and provide them with the resources and support necessary to seek closure. In this blog post, we’ll shed light on a significant development in this realm, focusing on New York State’s journey towards introducing a tailored bill around the Homicide Victims’ Rights Act.What is the Federal Homicide Victims Family Rights Act of 2021 and Its Impact on New York State

The Homicide Victims’ Families Rights Act of 2021 (HVFRA): A Ray of Hope

On May 19th, 2021, H.R. 3359, known as the Homicide Victims’ Families Rights Act of 2021 (HVFRA), was introduced in the House of Representatives. This bipartisan bill has been designed to create a comprehensive system for reviewing cold case files on the federal level. The primary objective is to equip both law enforcement agencies and the families of victims with the tools and resources necessary to solve these often-puzzling cases.

This bill is co-sponsored by Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Representative Michael T. McCaul (R-TX), signifying the broad support it enjoys across party lines. The Judiciary Committee has already passed the bill, sending it to the House Floor for consideration. It’s an extraordinary effort to address a pressing issue that affects countless families across the country.

A Troubling Reality: The Cold Case Epidemic and Why We Need HVFRA

The need for legislation like the HVFRA is underscored by the staggering number of cold cases throughout the United States. Currently, there are over 250,000 unsolved cases, and this number continues to grow. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report, approximately 5,000 new cases are added to this figure each year.

In New York State, the murder clearance rate is only 60%, highlighting the pressing need for legislative measures that support victims’ families and empower law enforcement to bring justice to these cases.

Introducing a tailored bill around the Homicide Victims’ Rights Act in New York State is crucial for several reasons:

  • Addressing the Epidemic: New York is not immune to the national cold case crisis. Families in the state deserve the same resources and support as those in other parts of the country.
  • Supporting Law Enforcement: A comprehensive approach to cold cases benefits law enforcement agencies by providing the necessary tools to solve these cases. This, in turn, enhances public safety and trust.
  • Empowering Families: Families of homicide victims have endured immense pain and loss. The HVFRA can provide them with the legal and emotional support they need to seek closure.

As concerned citizens, advocates, and families touched by these cases, we have the opportunity to support the introduction of the Homicide Victims’ Rights Act in New York.  Let your local representatives know by signing and sharing this petition that you support the HVFRA in New York State.  Together, we can make a difference and provide hope to the families who have been waiting for justice for far too long.

The Homicide Victims’ Rights Act: An In-Depth Look

While the introduction of the HVFRA is a significant step, it’s essential to understand the key provisions of this legislation. The HVFRA seeks to provide a structured approach to reviewing and potentially reinvestigating cold cases.

1. Case File Review (Section 2): The Act empowers designated persons, typically immediate family members, to request a review of the cold case murder file. The review aims to determine if a full reinvestigation could yield probative investigative leads or identify a likely perpetrator.

2. Full Reinvestigation (Section 4): If the case file review concludes that a full reinvestigation could yield probative investigative leads, the agency is mandated to conduct a thorough reinvestigation. This entails analyzing all available evidence to develop leads and potentially identify a suspect.

3. Consultation and Updates (Section 5): Throughout the case file review and full reinvestigation, agencies are required to consult with designated persons and provide them with periodic updates. Agencies must also meet with designated persons to discuss the evidence and the decision regarding a full reinvestigation.

4. Subsequent Reviews (Section 6): The Act outlines limitations on how frequently case file reviews and full reinvestigations can occur for the same cold case murder victim, with a waiting period of five years unless newly discovered, materially significant evidence arises.

5. Data Collection (Section 7): The Act requires the Director of the National Institute of Justice to publish annual statistics on the number of cold case murders, categorized by circumstances and agencies.

6. Procedures to Promote Compliance (Section 8): Agencies are mandated to develop regulations to enforce designated persons’ rights, ensure compliance with the Act, and designate an administrative authority to handle complaints and disciplinary sanctions for non-compliance.

7. Applicability (Section 11): The HVFRA applies to cold case murders occurring on or after January 1, 1970.

While the HVFRA is a significant milestone in addressing cold cases at the federal level, there’s a compelling need for state-specific legislation in New York. The state’s murder clearance rate, currently at only 60%, underscores the urgency for tailored measures. State-specific legislation can supplement the HVFRA by addressing unique challenges and providing additional support for both law enforcement and victims’ families.

Conclusion

The Homicide Victims’ Families Rights Act is a pivotal piece of legislation in the ongoing fight for justice and closure for the families of cold case murder victims. Its comprehensive provisions offer a structured approach to reviewing and potentially reinvestigating these cases. However, the challenges in solving cold cases remain significant, especially in states like New York.

Advocates and concerned citizens in New York should continue to support state-specific legislation tailored to the state’s needs, ensuring that families receive the resources and support required to seek closure. By advocating for justice, we can collectively make a difference and offer hope to those who have long-awaited answers and resolutions.

In the pursuit of justice, there’s no room for delay. The families of cold case murder victims deserve our unwavering support, and it’s up to us to ensure their voices are heard and their rights are upheld. With the Homicide Victims’ Rights Act and state-specific legislation, we can bring hope and closure to those who need it most.