ICYMI: “Let’s Vote To Protect Crime Victims’ Rights 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 18 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 Nicholas 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 50 states.
The constitutional amendment proposed by Marsy’s Law for Montana will add a Crime Victims Bill of Rights to the Montana 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.
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