Currently in the United States, the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution has enumerated rights for individuals accused of a crime and those convicted of a crime. Yet, the U.S. Constitution and 15 state constitutions do not extend enumerated rights to victims of crime. 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 rights equal to those 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. 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. Now, Dr. Nicholas is now lending his support to an effort to ensure equal rights for crime victims across the United States.
In 2012, voters in Illinois passed Marsy’s Law for Illinois and, recently, Marsy’s Law was passed by voters in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. Efforts are currently underway in Kentucky, Georgia, and Nevada to extend equal rights for crime victims in those states as well.
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 were confronted by the accused murderer. The family had no idea that he had been released on bail.
The pain and suffering Marsy’s family endured after her death is typical for family members of murder victims. They were not informed Marsy’s murderer had been released because the courts and law enforcement, though well meaning, had no obligation to keep them 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 has changed that in California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. Victims of violent crime in these states 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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