Marsy’s Law for All is an organization whose main focus is to get Marsy’s Law passed in every state that needs it. Marsy’s Law is a crime victim protection law that was created to give rights to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Currently, only 35 states have laws placed in their constitution for the protection of crime victims and Marsy’s Law is the reason five of those states are on the list. It has been passed in California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
Marsy’s Law is like a bill of rights for crime victims. This law provides enforceable rights that state the courts must stay in contact with the victim’s family and update them about certain information on the case. It also states that the court must take the victim into account while setting bail, parole hearings, sentencing and pleas. And, it assures that the victims are able to be in the court of law. “The district attorneys are supposed to be the voice of the victim,” said Casas. “But they are really the voice of the state as you see on court documents; it says The State of Georgia v. (accuser’s name) so Dr. Nicholas wanted to change that.” Before Marsy’s Law, there weren’t any enforceable laws in California to notify crime victims and families of their accusers release from jail. There also were not any rights in place that stated the victims or their families would/could be involved every step of the case. After the Law was passed in California, Dr. Nicholas noticed other states had no enforceable rights for crime victims so, he started work towards getting the law passed wherever it was needed.
Dr. Henry T. Nicholas is the key proponent of Marsy’s Law and named the Law in memory of his late sister Marsalee Nicholas better known as Marsy. In 1983, after Marsy ended a relationship with her long-time boyfriend, he didn’t take the break up well and killed her. Marsy’s family had him arrested and he was charged with murder. Just one week after Marsy’s murder, her killer confronted her family in a grocery store. Since the court and judge were not obligated to inform Marsy’s family that her killer was out on bail, they were shocked and scared to see him not knowing if he had any plans of retaliation for accusing him of Marsy’s murder. “They went through the process of him going to trial and getting convicted but they weren’t always allowed to sit in the courtroom and represent Marsy,” said Ann Casas, State Director for Marsy’s Law. “When they saw there weren’t really any rights for them, they wondered what they could do to change that.”
Marsy’s Law for All is currently making moves to pass Marsy’s Law in the state of Georgia to insure that crime victims and their families are treated with respect and dignity. Currently, Georgia does have rights in place for victims but because the law is not enforceable, the victims never receive the information they deserve. “The key factor is enforceability,” said Casas. “The Georgia statute law states that current crime victims are supposed to be receiving all of the information right now about the case but it doesn’t happen because they are not enforceable.” This means that currently, if a victim is not getting updates on their accusers case, there is nothing they can do about it. However, with Marsy’s Law, the victims will be able to go to a judge who will make sure the attorney’s are doing their job and keeping the victim informed.
Many people might not understand why anyone will have a problem with this law but there are some controversies surrounding it, the biggest being money. Marsy’s Law is not funded and many people are unsure about the importance of the law because they feel as if the taxpayers will have to pay the bill. “There’s no monetary need in this law,” said Casas. “The district attorney’s already have victim assistance in their offices and receive federal funds for them. This law doesn’t require anything additional.” Marsy’s Law only requires attorneys to make sure they’re protecting the victims.
Marsy’s Law has already passed in a 50-4 vote in the senate and is now going through the process to be passed in the House. Any constitutional Law had to pass 2/3 of the House and 2/3 of the senate. “Georgia has a 40 day legislative session, said Casas. “It took 28 days to get through the senate. We have to go through the different levels of the house in order to be up for a vote before each session ends. If we pass this year it will go to the 2018 ballot and the people of Georgia will decide if it will go onto the Constitution of Georgia or not.”
Currently, Marsy’s Law representatives are also working towards passing the law in Kentucky and Nevada but hope to pass it in every state that doesn’t already provide enforceable rights in their constitution.