Nearly 23 years ago, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment to guarantee that crime victims would be treated with dignity, fairness and respect in the judicial process.
But crime victims and their advocates now say the 1994 amendment falls short and it’s time to install a victims bill of rights into the Ohio Constitution.
Marsy’s Law for Ohio kicked off a statewide campaign to collect 305,591 valid voter signatures by July 5 to put a new proposed amendment on the ballot. If approved by voters, crime victims would have the right to notification of all proceedings, the right to be heard at multiple steps in the process, have input on plea deals offered to offenders and have the right to restitution.
Cathy Harper Lee of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center said it’s time to elevate the rights of crime victims to equal footing with those that defendants are guaranteed.
“It’s time that we fulfilled our promise to crime victims. Marsy’s Law for Ohio will provide crime victims the enforcement mechanisms that they need to ensure that their rights are upheld, consistently throughout the state,” Lee said.
Crime victims attending the campaign kick off describe being excluded from key hearings, having cases delayed for years, not being told that protection orders had been dropped and other problems.
“You just feel this helpless, hopeless feeling that you remember when everything was going on,” said child sexual abuse survivor Anna Herb when describing delays in prosecuting her abuser. “You have no voice, you have no rights, you have nothing. But yet he gets the right to a speedy trial. He’s the one that’s protected. And I speak for many people that I know. We just want to say, ‘What about us?’”
The campaign is named after Marsy Nicholas, a Californian who was stalked and killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend. The Nicholas family was not given notice that the man had been released on bail awaiting court proceedings. Her brother Henry T. Nicholas, III, a billionaire and co-founder of Broadcom Corp., is underwriting the campaign costs.
Paid petition circulators will be used to collect the required signatures in Ohio, the campaign said. It is supported by more than a dozen advocacy groups including MADD-Ohio, Ohio Domestic Violence Network and Parents of Murdered Children - Ohio.
Similar constitutional amendments have been approved by voters in California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana.
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