Marsy's Law would give crime victims constitutional rights

11/03/2017 02:47 PM

FRANKFORT – Kentucky is one of fifteen states that does not provide constitutional protections for crime victims, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, wants to do something about it as he plans on refiling “Marsy’s Law” during the 2018 session.

The legislation, which passed the Senate floor and was unanimously passed by a House committee in 2017 but did not come up for a floor vote, would put the issue on the ballot in the form of a constitutional amendment that would give crime victims the equivalent level of legal protection as those who are accused and convicted.

Among the things the law would do is give victims the right to notice of court proceedings, the right to be present at court proceedings, the right to be heard at plea, sentencing or any other proceeding implicating the victim’s rights, the right to notification of the release or escape of the accused, the right to reasonable protection of the accused and the right to full and timely restitution.

Westerfield told members of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary on Friday that the bill does something else which is extremely important for victims.

“The one (right) that the constitutional amendment would offer, that frankly, we need more than the others, is standing in order to exercise those rights,” Westerfield said. “Right now, even if you were a crime victim and you assert that you had a right that was violated, you don’t have any recourse.”

Stella Moore, whose 21-year-old grandson Skylar was shot in the early morning hours on May 29, 2016 in Lexington and died 4 months later, told committee members about the hardships which she experienced because of a lack of Constitutional protections for crime victims.

“Skylar’s offender was arrested on June 8, and he’s been in jail ever since, and it has been very difficult to find out anything about his court date, his trial, I finally found out he will go to trial in December but I had to go down to the circuit clerk’s office in Lexington just to even find out this information,” Moore said. “It is devastating, it breaks your heart.”

Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, a retired Kentucky State Police trooper, fully supports the legislation and says that he has seen first-hand, the difficulties that crime victims have experienced.

“There needs to be something to protect our victims,” Blanton said. “The accused have rights and they should have, and those rights should be protected, but so should victims. Victims have rights to equal protection.”

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, expressed some concerns about the legislation, saying that victims’ advocates are already in most areas of the state, which she feels are already doing a good job protecting victims’ rights.

“I really don’t think the judicial system victimizes anyone, I think the judicial system has a role and a function and I think overall, they do it well,” Webb said. “I’d like to have an exhaustive committee hearing about the provisions of each provision and paragraph of that bill as we go through so we can understand and look at the potential ramifications of the language of this and what is truly needed.”


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