Monday, February 8th, I introduced legislation, Senate Bill 175, known as “Marsy’s Law” aimed at supporting equal rights for crime victims in the Kentucky constitution.

The Marsy’s Law for Kentucky legislation would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2016, which if ratified by the voters, would ensure that victims of crime are afforded the same constitutional rights as the accused and convicted.

Although Kentucky does offer some statutory rights for crime victims, the Commonwealth is one of only 18 states that does not codify these rights in the state constitution. If passed, a Marsy’s Law would amend the constitution to include a “Victim’s Bill of Rights” guaranteeing victims’ constitutional rights, including:

  • The right to receive information about their rights and the services available to them.
  • The right to receive notice of proceedings and developments in the criminal case.
  • The right to receive timely notice of changes to the offender’s custodial status.
  • The right to be present at court proceedings and to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized.
  • The right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings, or any process that may result in the offender’s release.
  • The right to full and timely restitution.

As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen the suffering that crime victims and their families endure firsthand.  I am sponsoring Marsy’s Law because it is only fair that we provide the same guaranteed rights to crime victims that we provide to those accused of doing them harm. As lawmakers, it is our mission to not only bring criminals to justice but to make whole those who have been harmed.

Last year Kentucky had approximately 9,000 violent crimes committed against victims, and many of those victims faced further injustice as they navigated a criminal justice system that doesn’t offer them equal constitutional rights. With SB175 we are working to correct that injustice.

Marsy’s Law for Kentucky is part of a national effort – Marsy’s Law for All – that began as a result of the death of Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas. Marsy was a college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s family was confronted by her murderer after he had been released on bail.

Since that day, Marsy’s family has made it their mission to ensure that victims and their families are guaranteed constitutional protections and equal rights. Marsy’s Law was first passed in California in 2008, creating the most comprehensive constitutional Victims’ Bill of Rights in the country. Illinois passed a Marsy’s Law in 2014, and efforts to pass similar legislation are underway in seven additional states in 2016.

The rights proposed in SB175 do not trample on the rights of the accused.  Those rights are critical to our justice system, and are, rightly, fiercely protected.  After all, the liberty of the accused is at stake.  I believe the same level of protection should exist for crime victims.  The criminally accused are presumed innocent. But Kentucky's crime victims aren't presumed to be victims, they are victims.  Their rights should be afforded no less protection than the Constitution of the Commonwealth.