Nevada Needs Marsy’s Law
– Las Vegas Review-Journal, By Lynn Stewart and Marilyn Kirkpatrick
This past week was National Crime Victims Week. It was the perfect time to put partisan politics aside and come together as Nevadans, with the important goal of ensuring crime victims have a voice in justice and more importantly, the equal rights and constitutional protections they deserve.
In 1996, Nevada voters made history by passing a constitutional amendment to provide victims with some constitutional rights. It’s time for Nevada to make history again by going a step further by passing Marsy’s Law, a crime victims Bill of Rights, which will give victims in our state the same rights already afforded to accused and convicted criminals.
Nevada has a history of promoting equality, yet is one of only a handful of states that does not provide victims equal rights and constitutional protections. Instead, our current laws provide criminals more rights than the victims. We can all agree that no rapist should have rights beyond that of the victim.
No murderer should be afforded more rights than the victim’s family. Marsy’s Law would ensure that victims have the same “co-equal” rights as the accused and convicted — nothing more, nothing less.
Marsy’s Law, named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, has already become law in California and was approved overwhelmingly by voters in Illinois in 2014. Marsy Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after she was murdered, her mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store after visiting Marsy’s grave, and they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family had no idea he had been released on bail because nobody from the state or county notified them.
Dr. Henry Nicholas has made it his mission in life to give victims and their families across the country constitutional protections and equal rights.
A constitutional amendment for victims’ rights, if adopted in Nevada, would guarantee equal rights to crime victims. Victims and their families would receive information about their rights and the services available to them. They would have the right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case, and 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.
All of these rights would be provided to crime victims in the form of Marsy’s Card. Victims rights advocates, first responders and prosecutors in other states have pointed to the Marsy’s Card as a critical component of establishing rights and making a complicated process easier to understand. Much like Miranda rights read to the accused, a Marsy’s Card is provided to victims of crime and their families.
Marsy’s Law is not a Republican, Democrat or independent issue. We should all embrace it. That’s why we have put our political differences aside in support of Senate Joint Resolution 17, sponsored by state Sen. Michael Roberson.
We encourage our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join us in passing Marsy’s Law for Nevada, so that voters can ensure crime victims have the constitutional protections and equal rights they deserve.
Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, a Republican, represents Henderson’s District 22. Assembly Minority Leader Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a Democrat, represents North Las Vegas’ District 1.