Our View: Challenge to Marsy’s Law disappointing

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Marsy’s Law, a proposed change to the Kentucky Constitution to establish specific constitutional rights for crime victims, is slated to be on the Nov. 6 ballot after passing the 2018 legislative sessions.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a college student who was stalked and killed by a former boyfriend in California. Her brother, Dr. Henry Lucas, and other family members are behind the national campaign to establish equal constitutional rights for crime victims in all 50 states. The first bill was passed in California in 2008.

The Kentucky bill would have to be ratified with a ballot vote which asks, “Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to the victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and have a voice in the judicial process?”

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Legislators and Marsy’s Law advocates have expressed confidence the law will pass, offering a glimpse of hope for victims and their families who feel left out of legal proceedings in their cases.

However, an organization of criminal defense lawyers aims to stop that. The Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers as filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court, according to an article from the Louisville Courier-Journal, seeking to keep the measure off the upcoming general election ballot. The argument is the measure would “significantly change the criminal justice system” and that the wording the General Assembly drafted to put on the ballot is “insultingly vague and grossly misleading.”

“The association, in a press release, said the law actually makes much broader changes to the law and skews the process in which a defendant is presumed innocent,” Deborah Yetter of the Louisville Courier-Journal wrote.

“No voter who reads this question would be adequately informed of the complexity and radical departure from the current law of this proposed amendment,” the release said.

We believe no voter would reasonably questions that victims of crimes deserve fair and equal rights to the accused in their cases.

Of course, the judicial system is there to ensure the accused are innocent until proven guilty. For the most part, that system operates as it should. However, many crime victims and their families sit by waiting to be updated or to be allowed to take an active role in their legal proceedings. Often, they do not know the status of their case, they are not given sufficient updates about the status of the accused offender and based on the Kentucky Constitution, they do not have equal footing in the process.

We have previously advocated for Marsy’s Law and continue to do so. The challenge by this organization of lawyers is disappointing.

Crime victims deserve to be included in the legal process and to have the same protection by law as the accused. Marsy’s Law accomplishes that and aims to give victims respect, dignity and a meaningful role in the process.