Victim’s Story

LaWanda Hawkins

On December 6, 1995, LaWanda Hawkins was informed that her 19-year-old son, Reggie, had been found shot to death on the docks in her San Pedro community.

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The Latest

The latest polls show that Marsy’s Law is way ahead in Montana and South Dakota...

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New and Noteworthy

Mike Ramos becomes President of National District...

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Did you know?

The HEART Initiative at Montana State University is a student-run organization...

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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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Linda Whiting: Sister of LaWanda Hawkins

Victim’s Story

LaWanda Hawkins

On December 6, 1995, LaWanda Hawkins was informed that her 19-year-old son, Reggie, had been found shot to death on the docks in her San Pedro community. Mere hours earlier, she had been in prayer for the family of a young man reportedly found murdered - not yet knowing her son was the victim. As the days turned to weeks and then months, with no answers regarding her son’s murder, LaWanda worked with other parents to form Justice for Murdered Children (JFMC) to provide a support system and a voice for victims of homicide. At the time of her son’s murder, Los Angeles County had 3,200 homicides. To this day, many of those cases, including Reggie’s murder, remain unsolved.

Yet since that time, LaWanda has been a force of nature - through JFMC, she has helped other families through the court system, attended vigils and marches, provided counsel day and night, held community events and, in 2007, co-signed Marsy’s Law in California. Then in 2011, LaWanda found herself again faced with tragedy. While in attendance at a neighbor’s party, her sister, Linda Whiting, was murdered. This time, however, justice was served and Linda’s murderer remains in prison for his crime.

Currently, LaWanda is a board member of Justice for Homicide Victims, Crime Victims United and Crime Survivors, in addition to her continued work as CEO-Founder of JFMC. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Department of Justice’s Volunteer for Victims Award which honors individuals who have made tremendous contributions to the lives of victims of crime.

LaWanda Hawkins:Justice for Murdered Children

Encouragement For All

“There’s no justification for these people being murdered. There’s too many parents with the same issue, from the top of the Hill to the bottom of the hood.”

— LaWanda Hawkins

 

Michael Hollinger:The HEART Initiative

A Note From Michael Hollinger of The Heart Initiative

Human trafficking is an ancient evil that pervades modern society. Today there are more victims enslaved than there have ever been in the course of human history. The HEART Initiative at Montana State University is a student-run organization with the goal of raising awareness about this specter in Montana and the United States, supporting those who seek its abolition, motivating people to action, and standing with victims of all wrongs. It grieves me to think that people can prey on the defenseless in such a way; they are people's’ sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. We are bound together by the common ties of our humanity. So how can we just stand idly by while their cries go unanswered? At our core, that is what we are about — helping others in the present, because that is all we have, while inspiring others to do the same. Together we can combat trafficking and offer hope to victims.

 

Mike Ramos: San Bernardino County District Attorney

New and Noteworthy

The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) has named San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos as president of the organization, whose membership includes thousands of district attorneys from around the country. Formed in 1950, the NDAA regularly meets with the Department of Justice, members of Congress and other national associations to represent the views of prosecutors with respect to federal and national policies and programs that affect law enforcement and prosecution.

Ramos, a long-time supporter of victims’ rights and Marsy’s Law, reaffirmed his support of Marsy’s Law — stating that partnering with families and victims of crime through Marsy’s Law in California has been a positive change in the state that should be embraced nationwide.

Marsy’s Law For All congratulates Mike Ramos on his election as National District Attorneys Association president and we look forward to working together towards our common goal of bringing Marsy’s Law to victims across the nation.

 

Catch a brief insight into Mr. Ramos' passion for victims' rights in the video below.

 

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins: Marsy’s Law for Illinois State Director

Q & A With a Leader for Victims' Rights

With Jennifer Bishop- Jenkins

How did you get involved in Crime Victims' Rights?

When my beloved younger sister Nancy, her husband Richard, and their unborn child were brutally murdered in 1990, it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me in my life - worse than anyone who has not been through it could ever understand. My family's lives - my life - were changed forever. Everything changed - how I viewed the world and other people, what I knew was really important.

The process of investigating the crime and finally discovering the identity of the offender was a nightmare in some ways even worse than the crime because of its protracted nature. It took almost two years to come to trial. The retraumatization was constant. The trial itself took two weeks. None of us could focus on anything else in our lives all that time. Finally the end came and the jury quickly came back with three Guilty verdicts. The day before the sentencing hearing arrived, we got a phone call from the court - Don't come to the hearing - don't bother. The life sentences are mandatory so we are not going to take time to do any victim impact statements.

I had no idea at that time that the court violated our rights. I didn't even know that victims had rights. I spent two decades after the crime trying to combat violence and raise a family. I married a wonderful man - Bill Jenkins - whose son was also murdered. He introduced me to the victim movement and I got involved in helping victims through several organizations.

No family should ever be denied the right to make an impact statement after the murder of their loved ones, and now thanks to Marsy's Law, they will have a remedy if any court tries to do again what was done to us.

How has Marsy’s Law made an impact since passing in Illinois?

Since passage of Marsy's Law in Illinois we have worked to pass detailed implementation legislation into statute, reflecting the new constitutional language. We have seen real interest from most members of the legal community - prosecutors, judges, lawyers, law enforcement - to attend trainings being held around the state by the Illinois Attorney General's office. Advocates from MADD (Mother's Against Drunk Driving) and the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault have reported that they have been able to fix problems with their clients' cases that previously they would not have been able to fix. More privacy has been protected. Notifications of post conviction proceedings that victims were previously not being notified about are starting to happen.

What is most exciting is that the culture is starting to change in the criminal justice system. Victims are not being marginalized as before, and are no longer seen as something to be "controlled" rather than included. The passage of a constitutional amendment giving us standing in our cases, able to file motions related to our rights, has already increased communication between victims and prosecutors. Best of all, we have seen that the newer younger Assistant States Attorneys are especially interested in learning about how these new procedures can help them better do their job.

Most heartwrenchingly, I still receive phone calls from victims in tears thanking us for our work. I know Marsy's Law has truly helped many thousands of people's lives at the worst times of crisis. It will even be helping people long after anyone remembers a time when we did not have protected rights in the criminal justice system. I feel privileged to be able to see this up close and personal. I know this honors the memory of Marsy Nicholas and her wonderful family.

Read the full interview with Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins here.

Lauren Myers: Volunteer with Marsy’s Law for Montana

Thank A Volunteer

Lauren Myers

As a victim of a violent crime, I unfortunately have had to navigate the court system myself. However, I have not been alone through the civil and criminal processes due to the support of my family and those who dedicate their lives to helping survivors. While I was still in the acute healing stage receiving therapy, my mother found herself searching for resources to help me and to help her understand what she could do on a larger scale. As she and I spent month after month constantly “following up” on my case, I became more and more frustrated with the lack of compassion that was shown towards me. There was no mechanism holding the justice system accountable for their actions which implied that they did not care at all about my case or my rights. Instead of focusing on the increasing despair I felt, I realized that I could turn my frustration with the system into motivation to make the system more caring for others who would likely face similar circumstances. When I shared my desire to make the system more “victim friendly” with my mother, she introduced me to Marsy’s Law.

Upon reading about Marsy’s Law, I felt both hope and sadness simultaneously. I felt sadness because the reality is that we live in a place where actions like notifying the victim about major case developments is not always regarded as common courtesy. A victims’ bill of rights is very much needed in order to keep the justice system accountable for the way victims and their families are treated. I felt hope because Marsy’s Law exists, and that it has a chance at becoming more than just an elusive ideal of standards but something more concrete.

I know now what it is like to have my rights blatantly violated by, not only the perpetrator, but also the justice system. The continual disregard for my life and my rights is not only hurtful but retraumatizing. I was and still am very fortunate to have such strong supports, but there are survivors and family members who do not. No person should have to go through a process that is supposed to bring justice but only manages to guarantee a re-violation of rights. I plan on sharing my hopes of what Marsy’s Law can accomplish with my community through my involvement in The HEART Initiative, by emphasizing that the issue is about fundamental human rights and equality, to provide the same rights to those who are victims as those who have been accused.

Chuck Denowh: Marsy’s Law for Montana State Director

Meet Your Marsy's Law Team

Chuck Denowh

What made you interested in working with Marsy’s Law For Montana?

Marsy’s Law is so commonsensical that most people are surprised to learn that the Constitutional protections embodied within it are not already the law in Montana. We just expect those protections to be there for us–for the criminal justice system to work for victims–that it’s unexpected when it doesn’t happen that way. And unfortunately, most people learn that the hard way–by being victimized by crime.

Is there any experience you can/would be comfortable sharing about how Marsy’s Law could’ve/has affected you personally?

I’ve had several very difficult conversations with victims telling me their stories, and my heart goes out to them every time. I remember the first meeting I had with a victim and the story he told about his son who was murdered by a drug dealer. That crime occurred about 20 years ago, but it was still raw and emotional for him. I came away from that meeting with the realization that when you’re victimized by a crime like that there’s nothing that makes it go away–the courts can administer what society considers justice, but that’s just a small consolation to the families left behind.

Are there any experiences that have stuck out in your mind since you’ve joined the Marsy’s Law For Montana team?

The night before we turned in our signatures sticks out for me. Our signature team turned over their work to me in the form of a hotel luggage cart filled to the gills with boxes of signatures. It was a surreal sight. And I couldn’t wait to get those signatures out of my possession and into the county courthouses – I was scared the entire time I’d lose a box somewhere along the way.

If you could explain why you personally think Marsy’s Law is needed, what would you say?

Our law enforcement and prosecutors in Montana really do an excellent job. But when something does go wrong for a victim in the criminal justice process, there is no recourse for them. Marsy’s Law will ensure that the things that are supposed to happen for victims do happen, every time. To read the full interview with Chuck Denowh, please click here.

Jon Fleischman

Senior Advisor, Marsy's Law for All

We have been out in the field doing public opinion research of likely voters in advance of the voter-contact part of these campaigns. In addition to giving us valuable information as to how to talk about Marsy’s Law with those who will vote on it, it also affords us with a snapshot in time of how we’re doing with voters right now!

We have just released polling results in Montana and South Dakota — and, as are we going into the final stages of the election season, we have big leads! In Montana, we are winning amongst likely voters 70%-18% and in South Dakota, we are favored 75%-12%!

After getting an initial take from voters in both of these surveys — the outstanding numbers I just gave you — we then highlighted those things we think strengthen the case for Marsy’s Law and also highlighted the arguments of those who oppose our efforts put forward, then asked how someone will vote. This helps to simulate the impact of a campaign, as voters gather information.

With additional information, our support in Montana is still up at 68% and in South Dakota, our support is still at 74%!

These two surveys were conducted by polling firms that have a history and are respected in the states in which they did the work. We surveyed 500 likely voters in each survey so the statistical likelihood of errors is extremely small.

You can read more about the Montana Survey here, and the South Dakota survey here!

We’ll be releasing information on a North Dakota survey soon as well.

Marsy’s Law for Montana made huge strides this month which included: signing up new volunteers, connecting with multiple victims’ rights and services organizations, promoting the passage of Marsy’s Law at the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Forum and was supported in local media by Montana Chief US Probation Officer Jimmy Patelis. Additionally, former Federal Judge Paul Cassell presented to the County Attorney's an in-depth explanation as to how Marsy’s Law is a toolkit that will help prosecutors. We look forward to seeing the support and enthusiasm grow in all of our active states as we press on to November!