Coming soon to a ballot box near you is Marsy’s Law, also known as State Question 794. Marsy’s Law is named after Marsy Nicholas who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 1983. One week later, Marsy’s mother and brother unexpectedly encountered the accused murderer in the grocery store. They did not know he had been released from jail.
Dr. Nick Nicholas, Marsy’s brother, sort of started this little invention you are using right now – the Internet. Now, he has made it his quest to secure constitutional rights for victims of crime in honor of his sister.
Oklahoma needs Marsy’s Law. Oklahoma provides a few statutory rights for victims of crime but does not provide equal rights. Nor are most of these rights secured in our state constitution. In Oklahoma in 2015, there were 16,506 violent crimes committed. Marsy’s Law seeks to secure equal constitutional rights for these victims.
These rights include:
- The right to be treated with courtesy, fairness, and respect for victims’ dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice proceeding;
- The right to receive information about their rights and the services available to crime victims;
- The right to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status;
- The right to be present at court proceedings;
- The right to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized;
- The right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceeding or any process that may result in the offender’s release;
- The right to restitution.
Because some of these services are voluntarily provided now, there will be very limited additional cost to the state. For instance, Oklahoma utilizes VINE, Victim Information and Notification Everyday, an electronic system, to inform victims about offender status. So there will be additional cost to secure this right. Thirty other states have constitutional rights for victims. Only negligible costs have been incurred in those states implementing provisions similar to Marsy’s Law.
Providing victims’ rights does not decrease the rights of criminal defendants. Defendants already are protected through the Sixth Amendment to our U. S. Constitution and through Supreme Court decisions protecting those rights – such as a defendant’s “Miranda” warnings. More can and should be done to ensure that defendants’ rights are actually implemented. But victims’ rights also need attention. Marsy’s Law simply seeks to ensure that the people who are actually hurt by a crime also have rights to information and input during the legal process. Rights are not a “zero sum” game – giving victims rights does not diminish defendants’ rights.
I sat down with Kim Moyer, Marsy’s Law State Director for Oklahoma, recently to find out how the campaign was going. Kim used to be at the Oklahoma City YWCA which has a great program for crime victims. Kim was a little anxious to leave that position but says she has received tons of support from her former coworkers both personally and for Marsy’s Law. Kim has been meeting with victims, victim advocates, law enforcement, attorneys and others to rally support. Kim has also been speaking to civic groups like the Rotary and Chambers of Commerce to educate folks on the question. She is interested in meeting others. So please feel free to reach out to Kim if you want to learn more. So far, however, the response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
At Koller Trial Law, we often hear from crime victims about their frustration with the criminal justice system, so we understand how important Marsy’s Law (SQ794) is to restoring dignity and compassion to crime victims. Contact Koller Trial Law.
For more information, check out: www.marsyslaw4ok.com.