For One Crime Victim, The Struggle to Reclaim a Sense of Control

Natalie Marti’s experience as a victim of crime begins in February 2003 when she, her husband, and their baby daughter were driving home on an Idaho interstate. As her husband, Shawn, prepared to exit the freeway, a drunk driver traveling the wrong way at speeds estimated at 98 mph smashed into Marti’s vehicle.

Marti’s husband and daughter, Sage, were killed instantly. Natalie suffered serious injuries and brain trauma. She spent the next three weeks in a coma before regaining consciousness and the strength to embark on her recovery.

The police report on the crash left little doubt about who was at fault.

Shawn had no time to avoid the collision, no room on the roadway to maneuver, Marti recounted from the investigation report. The conclusion was there was nothing he could have done to avoid a crash, she said.

“We had no control over anything at that moment,” Marti said.

In the months and years that followed, like so many other crime victims, Marti experienced and worked through a range of emotions: anguish, anger, grief, stress disorder. Over time, her mental and emotional recovery journey would take her down a path toward forgiveness and ultimately building the strength and will to speak publicly about the perils and consequences of drinking and driving.

But to hear Marti tell her story, one central theme stands out: the control of her life that she had lost and her struggle to reclaim it.

“I was 23 years old at the time this happened to me,” she said. “I had to move back in with my parents again, have them take care of me, drive me around.

“After I got out of the hospital, I thought I’d go back home, sleep in the bed my husband and I shared, see my daughter’s room, her crib and the clothes she wore. The doctor said I couldn’t do that,” she said. “I learned quickly I couldn’t live the way I wanted to … to make my own choices. Losing my independence and control over my own life was such a frustrating experience.”

Marti is a supporter of Marsy’s Law and its goal of strengthening the rights of crime victims in Idaho and ensuring their place in the constitution.

One of the motivating forces behind her support should come as no surprise. For Marti, Marsy’s Law is about giving victims more control, about having guaranteed rights to take part in the legal system.

“Rights were taken away from me …. when this man crashed into me and my family 14 years ago,” she said. “I lost my right to raise my daughter and live the life I could have had with Shawn. But all of this was taken away, I lost control of any of this, because of someone else’s choice.”

Under Marsy’s Law, which is being proposed as a constitutional amendment, victims would be afforded equal constitutional rights as the accused or convicted. In specific terms, Marsy’s Law would provide victims reasonable and timely notification of court proceedings from trial to parole, information about sentencing and probation, the right to confer with prosecutors and reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on their behalf.

Lawmakers and voters in five states have already approved Marsy’s Law and enshrined victims’ rights in state constitutions. Advocates are currently working to pass similar constitutional amendments in Idaho and eight other states.

Support in the Gem State continues to grow, with endorsements coming recently from the Idaho Sheriff’s Association and legislative leaders like Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke.

A bill will be introduced in the 2018 Idaho Legislature, and if approved will be added to the ballot in November 2018.

“The biggest reason for supporting Marsy’s Law for me is guaranteeing rights for victims,” she said. “It’s important for victims to feel and believe they have rights in the legal system. Being at the trial, being at sentencing or whatever step in the process you want.

“I think it’s important because it gives a victim a sense of being in control again. When you’re a victim you feel like so much control has been taken away from you.”

Natalie Marti lives in Meridian, is a hair stylist and operates a salon. She also teaches swimming to children during the summer. She’s written a book about her experience entitled, “Last Words” which she hopes to have published later this year. She is active on the public speaking circuit, sharing her experience as a victim and teaching about the potential harm and implications of drinking and driving. For more information about Natalie, visit her website at: