Bill which would create voter referendum concerning victims' rights passes Senate

01/10/2018 04:46 PM

FRANKFORT – A bill which would which would create a crime Victims’ Bill of Rights in the Kentucky Constitution has passed the Senate by a 34-1 vote.

Senate Bill 3, also known as Marsy’s Law, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would be designed to ensure that crime victims are treated fairly and afforded rights equal to the accused during the judicial process.

If passed by the House, SB 3 would allow the issue to put on the ballot this November.

Westerfield told members of the Senate Committee on State and Local Government earlier in the day that legislation is designed to give victims a series of rights.

“The right to notice of proceedings, the right to notice of the escape of the disposition of the accused, the right to be present, and that’s a big one,” Westerfield said.

Testifying in favor of the bill, Melissa Buchanan, whose brother Charlie was murdered in 2000 by four individuals. She reflected on her frustrations with the system, and how she struggled to get information about the defendants.

“My family and I had to stumble our way through the justice system for each of the four defendant’s cases,” Buchanan said. “Until the four cases were transferred to Frankfort, my local newspaper man was my victim’s advocate because that’s how I learned of court dates.”

Lisa also voiced her frustration with the system after she was drugged and raped by her husband. Her nightmare continued after her husband was arrested and charged.

“At this point, I though the worst was over,” Lisa said. “I did what I was supposed to do, I went to the police, participated in the police report confession, and helped them make their case. I then trusted that the judicial system would take over and prosecute him for his crimes. I was even willing to testify if necessary, but it became very clear to me that the worst was not over. The prosecutor reminding me that I was only a witness.”

ACLU attorney Heather Gatnarek spoke in opposition of the legislation saying while the ACLU admits that treatment of survivors and victims of crime needs to improve, SB3 will have unintended consequences on the judicial system.

“What it will do is confuse and burden Kentucky’s justice system,” Gatnarek said.
“This bill before you offers no guidance on how courts across the commonwealth should reconcile any potential conflict.

“Thirty-four to one with complete support from both parties, with the exception of one vote, I think you’re going to find that same sort of support in the House, and I think you’ll see that same sort of support from the voters in November,” Westerfield said.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.