Legislature To Study Giving Equal Rights To Crime Victims

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CONTACT: Brian Robinson, 770-533-2617

March 23, 2016

Legislature To Study Giving Equal Rights To Crime Victims

Proponents plan to reintroduce constitutional amendment known as Marsy’s Law in 2017

Before adjourning the 2016 legislative session, the Georgia House and Senate Judiciary Non-Civil committees formed committees to study Marsy’s Law for Georgia, which would elevate the rights of crime victims to the state constitution.

“With a very short session this year, legislators simply did not have enough time to responsibly craft appropriate language to put before voters,” said House Judiciary Non-Civil Chairman Rich Golick (R-Smyrna). “Crime victims’ rights deserves to be studied. Holding committee hearings between the legislatives sessions will give the committee time to consider all the benefits, and any unintended consequences, of a constitutional amendment.”

Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) and Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone) introduced the bipartisan measure in the 2016 session, where it was considered by Golick’s committee.

“Marsy’s Law provides valuable protection to victims and their families in other states,” said Parsons, who authored the 2010 bill that put victims’ rights in statute. “A constitutional amendment would give victims and their loved ones a chance to speak throughout the criminal justice process. It’s really about victims having a voice. We delivered a big win in 2010 when we put a victims’ bill of rights in state law, but as the head of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council testified in two committee hearings this session, some of those rights have proven unenforceable. Giving victims equal rights will fix that.”

Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Chairman Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) regrets that his chamber didn’t get the chance to consider Marsy’s Law this session – an issue he seeks to remedy. “I was pleased that a proposal came forward this session to place enforceable rights for victims of crime in our state constitution and was disappointed the Senate did not have the opportunity to work on it,” Stone said. “I have agreed to bring senators  together between now and next year’s session to work through the details and bring something back before the General Assembly next year, with the goal of placing an item before voters in 2018.”

In addition to the work legislators will perform on the crime victims’ amendment, the Georgia Marsy’s Law team will continue to reach out to victims throughout the state to build grassroots support from the voters who best understand the need for greater protections.

“Marsy’s Law for Georgia would provide equal rights for crime victims,” said Ann Casas, the Georgia state director for Marsy’s Law. “A constitutional amendment will give crime victims standing and enforceable rights if they fall through the cracks of the criminal justice system. We can all agree that a rapist shouldn’t have stronger rights than his victim or no murderer more rights than the victim’s family. More than 30 states already have victims’ rights in the state constitution, including all of our surrounding states. Georgia’s crime victims deserve no less.”