Homicide Victim’s Father Fights for Constitutional Rights
I never thought it would happen to me – that I would come home to discover my 10-year-old daughter, Staci’s, battered body after two sexual predators murdered her, just four short months after my wife died of breast cancer. I never thought one of her killers would only serve seven years in prison. I never thought this 35-year-long nightmare would continue long after the murderers were found guilty and sent to jail. And, I certainly never thought my family’s rights would not be equal to the criminals’. That’s exactly why Florida must add Marsy’s Law to our state constitution.
Quite simply, Marsy’s Law ensures crime victims and their families are protected under our state’s most important legal document, while maintaining the rights of the accused that are already in place. Crime victims’ rights are not a political issue, and it’s something everyone should support. Would you want to be kept in the dark if someone you love was murdered?
Nine excruciating months passed before Staci’s killers were arrested. It was scary and confusing, and unfortunately, my family’s suffering continued through plea bargains, overturned convictions, and parole hearings.
During the sentencing, I was not allowed to speak. I was not even allowed in the courtroom, which I found out at the last minute. I watched in agony from the press room as the killer’s mother got to cry in front of the jury, showing pictures of him as an altar boy. Why couldn’t I stand up and talk about my beautiful little girl who will never graduate college, get married or have children? To call our current criminal justice system unfair would be a vast understatement.
Two of Staci’s friends grew up to be a physical therapist and a teacher. Staci never got a chance to be either of those things, and that is just unacceptable. I can’t change the past, but I can help change the future, and I will not rest until all crime victims are treated fairly.
Victims and their families need to know what their rights are from the beginning. They need to be notified of timely developments in the criminal case. They need their opinion to matter when it comes to plea bargains, sentencing, parole hearings. Most importantly, victims and their families need the eyes of the law to weigh their rights equally to those of the accused.
I urge the Constitution Revision Commission to place Marsy’s Law on the 2018 ballot, and I urge Florida voters to support this important amendment.
Marvin Weinstein is the co-author of “Who Will Cry for Staci” about his quest for justice for his late daughter, Staci.