Constitutional amendment granting victims' rights will not move forward in House

04/15/2016 10:23 PM

FRANKFORT — Senate Judiciary Chair Whitney Westerfield says the move to amend Kentucky’s Constitution to afford victims of crimes the same rights afforded to the accused has failed to garner support of legislative leaders in the House.

Westerfield, who sponsored Senate Bill 175, met with House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and other leaders in a private meeting on Friday evening — where he said leaders offered several reasons the amendment would not move forward.

“Their response was, we like the bill, but we want to study it more — which seems backwards and counter intuitive for me,” Westerfield said of his meeting. “It’s frustrating that we would do something — good policy — that I helped work on a great deal to help convicted felons in their striving for redemption, but we wouldn’t do something that would give simple rights to crime victims.”

The Senate Judiciary Chair said he was “frustrated” by the lack of action on the bill in the House, who has had the bill in their possession since March 2.

Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, added that he told House leadership in the meeting that passing the expungment legislation, which had not been adopted in a decade of trying by the House, was an “enormous policy lift philosophically” for members of the GOP caucus.

“I don’t think Senate Bill 175 is quite that big a lift,” Westerfield said.

Often bills can be traded and with the House getting the expungement bill and not taking up the victims’ bill of rights amendment it could be possible for future negotiations to fall apart.

When asked if the breakdown would poison the well, Westerfield said he wouldn’t be “walked all over” but he also “won’t turn away good policy.”

The constitutional amendment is named “Marsy’s Law” and is part of a national effort to codify victims’ rights in state’s constitutions.

If passed and ratified by the people of Kentucky, Marsy’s Law would grants a “Victim’s Bill of Rights” guaranteeing victims’ constitutional rights to receive notification of proceedings and developments in the criminal case and to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status.

The legislation would also grant victims the right to be present at court proceedings and to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized, to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings, or any process that may result in the offender’s release; and the right to full and timely restitution.

Watch the full interview with Westerfield including why he says the bill would have been good politics for state representatives and good policy.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@twcnews.com.

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