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Marsy’s Law is back on the ballot in Kentucky

Published: Oct. 14, 2020 at 4:03 PM EDT
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KENTUCKY (WKYT) - Your ballot may look a little different depending on where you live, but the one thing every voter will be deciding on is Marsy’s Law.

The law is named after Marsalee Nicholas, a California woman who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

Her family said they saw the perpetrator a week after Marsy’s murder. They had no idea he had been released on bail. Since then, the family has sparked a nationwide movement to enhance victims' rights.

The provision on the ballot for the general election would amend part of Kentucky’s constitution.

Advocates say Marsy’s Law enhances victim’s rights, while opponents say Kentucky statues already protect them.

If passed, amendment one would give certain rights to victims, such as notifying them about the accused.

Alex Otte supports the law. Herself a victim after being hit by a drunk driver in 2010. The boat accident shattered multiple bones leaving her with a prosthetic leg.

“The boat hit me on the side going over 60 miles an hour,” Otte said.

She wishes someone would have told her when the man who hit her bonded out of jail.

“I don’t believe he was going to come try and do it again," Otte said. "But at the same time, I deserve to know if I’m going to run into him in the grocery store.”

Many Kentucky lawmakers agreed, the law receiving bipartisan support to be on the 2018 ballot. 63 percent of voters were in favor, but the Supreme Court overturned the election results, deciding the language on the ballot was too vague.

This year lawmakers made sure the entire amendment was on the ballot.

“Kentucky is one of 15 states that doesn’t have some form of constitutional rights and protections for crime victims,” said Sen. Whitney Westerfield, sponsor of Kentucky’s Marsy’s Law bill.

But members of the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers disagree, saying there are already state laws that protect victims. The organization believes Marsy’s Law undermines due process and the rights of the accused.

“It determines anyone who brings a complaint to the county attorney’s office, police department, commonwealth’s attorney, immediately a victim with constitutional standing before there’s any kind of hearing to determine the truth of the allegations,” Rebecca Ballard DiLoreto said.

The Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed the lawsuit in 2018 to block Marsy’s Law.

The organization is suing once again, this time claiming that the amendment fails to define who a victim is and fails to explain to voters the impact the amendment would have on the accused.

The amendment this year is pretty much the same as it was in 2018, but the amendment now requires that victims be notified of a pardon by the governor, commutations, and reprieves.

Read the full text of the law below:

To secure for victims of criminal acts or public offenses justice and due process and to ensure crime victims a meaningful role throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems, a victim, as defined by law which takes effect upon the enactment of this section and which may be expanded by the General Assembly, shall have the following rights, which shall be respected and protected by law in a manner no less vigorous than the protections afforded to the accused in the criminal and juvenile justice systems: victims shall have the reasonable right, upon request, to timely notice of all proceedings and to be heard in any proceeding involving a release, plea, sentencing, or in the consideration of any pardon, commutation of sentence, granting of a reprieve, or other matter involving the right of a victim other than grand jury proceedings; the right to be present at the trial and all other proceedings, other than grand jury proceedings, on the same basis as the accused; the right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; the right to consult with the attorney for the Commonwealth or the attorney’s designee; the right to reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on behalf of the accused throughout the criminal and juvenile justice process; the right to timely notice, upon request, of release or escape of the accused; the right to have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in setting bail, determining whether to release the defendant, and setting conditions of release after arrest and conviction; the right to full restitution to be paid by the convicted or adjudicated party in a manner to be determined by the court, except that in the case of a juvenile offender the court shall determine the amount and manner of paying the restitution taking into consideration the best interests of the juvenile offender and the victim; the right to fairness and due consideration of the crime victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy; and the right to be informed of these enumerated rights, and shall have standing to assert these rights. The victim, the victim’s attorney or other lawful representative, or the attorney for the Commonwealth upon request of the victim may seek enforcement of the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to the victim by law in any trial or appellate court with jurisdiction over the case. The court shall act promptly on such a request and afford a remedy for the violation of any right. Nothing in this section shall afford the victim party status, or be construed as altering the presumption of innocence in the criminal justice system. The accused shall not have standing to assert the rights of a victim. Nothing in this section shall be construed to alter the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the prosecuting attorney. Nothing in this section or any law enacted under this section creates a cause of action for compensation, attorney’s fees, or damages against the Commonwealth, a county, city, municipal corporation, or other political subdivision of the Commonwealth, an officer, employee, or agent of the Commonwealth, a county, city, municipal corporation, or any political subdivision of the Commonwealth, or an officer or employee of the court. Nothing in this section or any law enacted under this section shall be construed as creating:

(1) A basis for vacating a conviction; or

(2) A ground for any relief requested by the defendant.

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