Victim’s Story

Marsy

Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas was murdered by her ex-boyfriend on November 30, 1983. She was only 21 years old.

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Monthly Highlight

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was observed this year April 10-16.

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FAQ with Meg Garvin

What is the NCLVI and how do they achieve their mission?

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Did you know?

History Lesson: Why are victim’s rights not already in the constitution?

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Noteworthy This Month

Marsy’s Law is a national level campaign to create enforceable constitutional rights for victims of crime in state constitutions around the country, and to ultimately pursue a similar amendment to the United States Constitution.

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Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas

Victim’s Story

Marsy

Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas was murdered by her ex-boyfriend on November 30, 1983. She was only 21 years old. A vibrant and beautiful student at the University of California Santa Barbara, Marsy loved horses and was best friends with her brother, Henry. Merely one week after her death, her murderer was released on bail and confronted Marsy’s mother, Mrs. Marcella Leach, and her brother at the grocery store. The family had received no notification from the court of his release. Until his trial, two years later, Marsy’s family lived with the fear that they would, again, be confronted by her murderer while out or at their home.

After the loss of Marsy and the suffering they endured in the aftermath, Marsy’s family determined that her murder would not be in vain. Dedicated to turning her murder into a source of good, the Nicholas-Leach family have been at the forefront of the battle for Crime Victims’ Rights. Dr. Henry Nicholas founded Marsy’s Law For All to help prevent others from enduring the events his family suffered after the tragic loss of Marsy.

 

Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III speaks on behalf of Marsy’s Law to crime victims’ rally in Orange County. Monday April 11th

Encouragement For All

Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III

“If any good can come of something this horrible – it is that these violent acts served as a catalyst for change.”

– Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III

 

History Lesson

Why are victims rights not already included in the US Constitution?

Here’s a summary: The first colonists imported English common law tradition of private prosecution, which gave a victim the right to initiate a criminal case; Those who framed the constitution could not foresee a need for separate rights because victims could act on their own.

Two things shifted: (1) the installment of public prosecutors meant the prosecution represented only the state and not the victim and (2) the Supreme Court enumerated rights for the accused in the constitution making it so a defendant's claim of a procedural right always prevailed. Paul Cassel & Steve Twist explain the devolution of victim’s rights here.

 

Meg Garvin, MA, JD
Executive Director NCVLI & Clinical Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School

Frequently Asked Questions

With Meg Garvin

What is the NCVLI?

The National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon.  NCVLI’s mission is to promote balance and fairness in the justice system through victim-centered legal advocacy, education, and resource sharing.

What are some of the key ways you achieve your mission?

NCVLI has many projects – each of which falls into one of these three categories: education, advocacy, and policy. “Two key components of our work are pairing survivors with trained and supported no cost lawyers who can protect their rights, and fighting for the strategic development of positive case law through litigation.”

Why is it vital for crime victims to have an attorney?

For victims to move toward becoming survivors and for the justice system to fulfill its goals survivors’ voices must be heard.  The only way for individuals to truly be heard in our system – whether they are a defendant or a victim – is through legal advocacy. While victims can assert their rights pro se (i.e., by themselves) and sometimes a prosecutor can and will assert their rights, victims’ voices are truly heard and they fare best when they have an attorney independently advocating for their rights.

When is your next training session?

You can stay up-to-date by going to NCVLI’s website: www.ncvli.org.  Two to highlight, however.  First, NCVLI’s 15th Crime Victim Law Conference is June 10-11 in Portland, Oregon.  Information is available here.

Top: Bob and Marcella Leach, Marsy’s parents; Las Vegas High Roller lit purple in honor of NCVRW; Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III speaks speaks on behalf of Marsy's Law to crime victims' rally in Orange County.
Middle: Falls of Sioux Falls in SD lit purple to kickoff NCVRW; Supporters of Marsy’s Law Hawaii rally at the Capitol; Marsy’s Law ND participates in Race to Zero in Bismarck.
Bottom: Marsy’s Law for Kentucky bill sponsor Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville) leads rally in the Capital Rotunda; Marsy’s Law for GA gathers with victims in Decatur for the annual CVAC memorial service; Marsy’s Law for MT State Director, Chuck Denowh, receives Helena City proclamation declaring April 10-16 Crime Victims Rights Week in Helena

Monthly Highlight

NCVRW ‘16

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was observed this year April 10-16. This year’s theme for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was: “Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope.”

Marsy’s Law for All showed illuminating support throughout the country. Our State Directors in Hawaii, Nevada, North Dakota, and Georgia worked with local governments to secure proclamations observing National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. In Nevada, South Dakota, and Hawaii, we paid tribute to crime victims by lighting different landmarks with the color purple – a color of strength and hope. Simultaneously, forums and rallies were held in Montana and Kentucky giving both victims and advocates an opportunity to unite and exercise their voice.

We are humbled, honored, and inspired by the outpour of support shown this week. Together we will see equal rights for crime victims nationwide.

Marsy’s Law Across the Nation

Where are we actively pursuing Marsy’s Law

Facts on Victims’ Rights

At the founding of our nation, victims actively pursued criminals, even serving as private prosecutors if they wished. Over time, for reasons that have yet to be fully explained, the victims’ role was diminished to serving as a mere witness in the proceedings. The court’s failure to recognize that victims have wholly legitimate interests in the outcome of prosecutions led to a victims’ rights movement that, in recent years, has successfully reasserted a role for victims. Since 1988, thirty-one states have enshrined victims’ rights in their own state constitutions.

Find out more about victims’ rights.