OHIO VALLEY — Ensuring the rights of a person who is the victim of a crime is the goal behind a ballot campaign aiming to place a crime victim bill of rights on the November ballot across the state of Ohio.
A kickoff news conference was held earlier this week in Columbus for Marsy’s Law for Ohio, with a number of crime victims, advocates, prosecutors and law-enforcement officials in attendance, including Meigs County Victim’s Assistance Director Theda Petrasko.
A news release from the kickoff event states that if voters approve the proposal, which would give victim’s equal rights under the law, Marsy’s Law for Ohio would provide additional protections in the constitution to crime victims and their immediate families.
“One of my key roles as county prosecutor is to be an ally and advocate for victims from all walks of life,” said Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien. “By placing guarantees into the Ohio Constitution that a victim’s rights will be protected, Marsy’s Law for Ohio will be another important tool for prosecutors in the battle to help crime victims.”
Under the Marsy’s Law for Ohio amendment, crime victims would have the right to notification of all proceedings as well as be guaranteed the right to be heard at every step of the process where their rights are implicated. Victims would have the right to have input on all plea deals for offenders as well as the right to restitution resulting from the financial impact of the crime.
The rights which would be included in the crime victims bill or rights include, the right to be treated with respect, fairness and dignity; the right to information; the right to notification; the right to be present; the right to be heard; and the right to restitution.
Marsy’s Law does not impact the rights of the accused, does not make the victim a party to the case and does not cause unnecessary delays in the criminal process.
“The rights of crime victims are too important to be allowed to fall through the cracks in the criminal justice system,” said Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. “I have long believed that the rights of crime victims should be respected just as much as the rights of the accused. Marsy’s Law for Ohio is a much-needed change to Ohio’s constitution.”
Also appearing at the Statehouse for the kickoff were dozens of crime victims advocacy groups as well as several survivors of violent crimes who fully support Marsy’s Law for Ohio.
“My rights as a victim in the domestic violence case against my husband were routinely violated and no one in the system seemed to care,” said Danielle Morlan, a survivor of violent crime from central Ohio. “Marsy’s Law will change that and give crime victims the ability to protect and enforce their rights.”
The announcement on Wednesday officially began the campaign to enact Marsy’s Law for Ohio, which is an 88-county movement to place a crime victims bill of rights into the Ohio Constitution. Similar ballot issues have been approved in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Illinois and California.
The Marsy’s Law for Ohio campaign has cleared the initial legal hurdles and signature-collectors are beginning to collect the 305,591 valid signatures needed to place the amendment on the Nov. 7 General Election ballot. Under Ohio law, the signatures are due July 5.
The Marsy’s Law movement began in 1983, when Marsy Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in California. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they saw the accused murderer. The family, who had just visited Marsy’s grave, had no idea the accused murderer had been released on bail.
Dr. Nicholas founded Marsy’s Law for All to ensure the re-victimization his family experienced after being thrust into the criminal justice process does not happen to anyone else. The organization works to provide victims and their families across the country with constitutional protections and equal rights.
Dr. Nicholas is funding the Ohio effort in its entirety.