State constitutions and the U.S. Constitution enumerate rights for individuals accused of a crime, and individuals convicted of a crime. The victims of those crimes, on the other hand, have no enumerated rights in 18 state’s constitutions, nor the U.S. Constitution. Marsy’s Law for All seeks to amend state constitutions that don’t offer protections to crime victims, and eventually the U.S. Constitution, to give victims of crime equal rights that are already afforded to the accused and convicted.
We can all agree that no rapist should have more rights than the victim. No murderer should be afforded more rights than the victim’s family. Marsy’s Law would ensure that victims have the same co-equal rights as the accused and convicted – nothing more, nothing less. Marsy’s Law is not a partisan issue. Giving crime victims equal rights is a rare political issue that Republicans and Democrats are unified in supporting.
Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., is the key backer and proponent of Marsy’s Law. Dr. Nicholas is now lending his support to an effort to ensure equal rights for crime victims in each of the United States. When it passed California in November 2008, Proposition 9, the Victim’s Bill of Rights Act of 2008, Marsy’s Law became the strongest and most comprehensive Constitutional Victim’s Rights Law in the U.S. and put California in the forefront of the national victim’s rights movement.
In 2012, voters in Illinois passed Marsy’s Law for Illinois. Now, Dr. Nicholas is leading the charge to amend the state constitutions of Hawaii, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Kentucky and Georgia so that crime victims in those states have equal rights.
Marsy’s Law was named after Dr. Nicholas’ sister, Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a beautiful, vibrant University of California Santa Barbara student, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, Dr. Nicholas and Marsy’s mother, Mrs. Marcella Leach, walked into a grocery store after visiting her daughter’s grave and was confronted by the accused murderer. She had no idea that he had been released on bail.
Mrs. Leach’s story is typical of the pain and suffering the family members of murder victims have endured. She was not informed because the courts and law enforcement, though well meaning, had no obligation to keep her informed. While criminals have more than 20 individuals rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, the surviving family members of murder victims have none.
But the passage of Marsy’s Law changed all that in California and Illinois. Victims of violent crime in California and Illinois must by law be treated with respect and dignity by the criminal justice system. Courts must consider the safety of victims and families when setting bail and release conditions. Family members have legal standing in bail hearings, pleas, sentencing and parole hearings.
“If any good can come of something this horrible – the loss of my sister and the losses of other families of crime victims – it is that these violent acts served as a catalyst for change,” Dr. Nicholas said. “Marsy’s Law will provide for a more compassionate justice system for crime victims in California and make that a constitutional guarantee. Now the momentum can be put behind a U.S. Constitutional Amendment so that the rights of all crime victims, anywhere in America, can be protected.”
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