Illinois-based crime victim advocates seek federal support for legal protection
The advocacy group Mothers On a Mission to Stop Violence has proposed federal legislation to guarantee crime victims legal representation funded through the Crime Victims Compensation Act, according to a press release.
The organization's executive director, Denise Rotheimer, offered the measure following the case of Pravin Varughese, a Southern Illinois University found dead in 2014 after being reported missing five days earlier. According to his mother, Lovely Varughese, the family had to fight to have his death investigated as a crime, even commissioning a second autopsy.
“We don’t want our son’s death to go in vain,” Lovely Varughese said, according to the press release. “His life would be honored if we are able to shed some light onto the problems in the judicial system and the way the families are treated. We are hoping to pass ‘the Dignity for All Act’ in honor of our son Pravin.”
According to the press release, the Illinois Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights Act was amended in 2014 to specifically prohibit courts from appointing attorneys to represent crime victims.
Dubbed the Dignity for All Act, Rotheimer's legislation is an effort to fix what the group deems a disparity created by the change.
“As a result of [this amendment], the State of Illinois only provides crime victims who are of financial means with the right to retain legal representation in the criminal case,” Rotheimer said in the release. “This disparity puts crime victims at risk of becoming further victimized by the system and is the reason why I authored legislation in the Illinois General Assembly to provide crime victims with legal representation to enforce their rights at no cost or additional cost to taxpayers.”
The proposal is currently under consideration by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), according to the release.