Law to give crime victims rights on ballot this November

Published 5:42 pm Friday, April 13, 2018

Marsy’s Law, a law that grants a bill of rights to victims of crimes, will be on the ballot in Decatur County this November as a statewide referendum.

Named after Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a University of California Santa Barbara student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, the law aims to keep crime victims informed of criminals’ whereabouts, proceedings and any other pertinent information. After Nicholas was killed, her parents ran into the murderer in a grocery store, unaware he had been released on bail.

Marsy’s Law forces judges to consider the safety of victims and their families when setting bail and release conditions.

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The law has been passed in California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota and Ohio. Efforts to pass the law are currently underway in Kentucky, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Idaho, Oklahoma, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Iowa, according to the law’s website.

During year’s legislative session, the Georgia House and Senate voted to put the Marsy’s Law referendum on the November ballot. In Georgia Code, a crime victim’s bill of rights already exists as a statute (17-17-1), but South Georgia Judicial Circuit District Attorney Joe Mulholland believes it would be even stronger as a constitutional law.

“It’s already technically part of Georgia law, but the legislature felt like being a part of the constitution is even stronger,” said Mulholland. “Having that and knowing its part of the constitution, I think it gives peace of mind to prosecutors.”

As a prosecutor himself, Mulholland believes his job is to represent crime victims that would be helped by Marsy’s law, he said.

Marsy’s law would grant crime victims a right to be heard and provide their opinion during sentencing hearings and also grant a right of restitution if any of their belongings were stolen. Most importantly, it would have psychological and mental benefits to those who are affected by crimes.

“I think it can bring them closure,” said Mulholland.

Election day in Georgia is Tuesday, Nov. 7.