While the Commonwealth of Kentucky provides for victim’s rights in state statutes, there is nothing in its Constitution guaranteeing protections for victims of crime. That’s why Family & Children’s Place supports, in principle, state adoption of a Marsy’s Law provision – codifying these protections in the Commonwealth’s foundation document.
In 2016, the Kentucky Senate and a House committee passed a Marsy’s Law for Kentucky, but due to the plethora of filed bills, the full House never discussed or acted on the proposal. So for now the Kentucky Constitution ensures specific rights for individuals accused of a crime, but provides no like protections for victims of crimes.
And Kentucky isn’t alone. In all, 15 state constitutions are void victim protections as well as the United States Constitution, so Marsy’s Law is the best tool to ensure these protections are embedded in the most steadfast legal tool possible – constitutions, the blueprints of state and federal governments.
Marsy’s Law was named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a University of California Santa Barbara student, stalked and killed in 1983by her ex-boyfriend. Only a week after the girl was murdered, her father and mother walked into a grocery and ran into the accused murderer. They had no idea he was free on bail.
Investigating, they learned that the courts and law enforcement, though well meaning, were not obligated to inform them. They discovered that criminals have more than 20 individuals rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, but surviving family members of murder victims have none. So Marsy’s father, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, launched the Marsy’s Law Movement.
Passage of Marsy’s Law in Kentucky and elsewhere will make the justice system more just, codify protections and ensure that victims of crimes and their families are treated with respect and dignity. And it also would ensure that family members have legal standing in bail hearings, pleas, sentencing, and parole hearings.