Marsy’s Law For Montana Supporter Kelsen Young Speaks Out
It’s Time For Equal Rights For Crime Victims In Montana
By: Kelsen Young
It is something that we all try to avoid, that none of us want to think could happen to us, our friends or family members. Yet, there are thousands of people across our state who face the daily challenges of being a victim of crime.
Most Montanans are well aware of the Constitutional rights afforded to those accused or convicted of crimes. But did you know there are no Constitutional Rights for crime victims in our state? Montana is one of only eighteen states that does not afford rights to victims of crime that are co-equal to the rights of those who commit crimes.
That is not to say that members of the justice system and law enforcement don’t do all they can to ensure that victims’ rights are upheld, but their job is made more difficult when in the eyes of the law the rights of the accused carry more weight that those of the victims.
In an effort to put the rights of crime victims on par with the rights of the accused, we have formed Marsy’s Law for Montana – a coalition that brings together law enforcement, prosecutors, and victims’ advocates to pass a constitutional amendment to correct this imbalance and ensure victims have access to equal rights under the Montana Constitution.
Marsy’s Law is named for Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Her murderer, who was later released on bail, confronted and threatened members of Marsy’s family, including her brother Henry Nicholas. The family was never notified by authorities that the murderer had been released.
It was after this experience that Henry made it his mission to ensure that no victim or victim’s family would have to endure the same anguish that he and his family had been forced to face.
Dr. Nicholas formed Marsy’s Law for All with the goal of establishing constitutional rights for the victims of crime and their families in all fifty states.
The constitutional amendment proposed by Marsy’s Law for Montana will add a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights to the Montana State Constitution which would grant victims the same constitutionally recognized rights as the accused and provide notification provisions requiring victims to be informed of changes to the custodial status of offenders and the accused.
A constitutional amendment for victims’ rights would guarantee equal rights to crime victims. Victims and their families would receive information about their rights and services available to them. They would have the right to be notified of proceedings and developments in the case involving them. They would have the right to receive timely notifications of changes to the offender’s custodial status.
Victims and their families would have the right to be present at court proceedings and provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized. They would have the right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release. Finally, they would have the right to restitution.
Implementing Marsy’s Law is a common sense change that will benefit people across our state. It is not a Republican or Democratic issue—it is an issue concerning the safety of all Montanans and the basic rights of those who have been unjustly wronged. I encourage our elected officials, and citizens across the state, to learn more about our new coalition and our efforts to establish equal rights for crime victims in the Montana Constitution.