Victims’ Advocacy Groups Push ‘Marsy’s Law’ During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

For Immediate Release

April 4, 2018

Media Contact: Alex Weintz; [email protected] or (405) 518-5135

Victims’ Advocacy Groups Push ‘Marsy’s Law’ During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

State Question 794 would add Constitutional protections for victims


Advocates for crime victims in Oklahoma are using National Crime Victims Rights’ Week, beginning April 8, to highlight their support for State Question 794. The ballot initiative includes a set of victims’ rights collectively known as “Marsy’s Law.” The state question will be included on the November ballot in Oklahoma and seeks to grant crime victims Constitutional protections equal to the protections afforded to accused criminals.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsy Nicholas, a University of California Santa Barbara student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, her mother walked into a grocery store and was confronted by the accused murderer. She had no idea her daughter’s killer had been released on bail. 

In the wake of his family’s trauma, Marsy’s brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, has been leading a national movement to help other victims and victims’ families. Marsy’s Law, which has now passed in six states, elevates the rights of victims to be equal to the rights of the accused. Under Marsy’s Law, courts must consider the safety of victims and families when setting bail and release conditions. Family members also have legal standing in bail hearings, pleas, sentencing, and parole hearings.

In Oklahoma, hundreds of volunteers and advocates for victims are working to ensure the state adopts Marsy’s Law by encouraging voters to support State Question 794. The measure has already received the support of advocacy groups like the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, the Oklahoma Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and several law enforcement groups, including the Oklahoma Sheriff’s Association, the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police and the Oklahoma District Attorney’s Council (click here to see additional endorsements).

Resources and Respect for Victims

Lauren Layman’s grandmother was brutally murdered by a home intruder in Geary, Oklahoma in 1983. Although a named suspect was linked to the attack soon after, the district attorney declined to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence. That same suspect was later convicted of rape and burglary in other cases. Today, Lauren is the president of Oklahoma Homicide Survivors Support Group, which provides resources to crime victims.

The group has endorsed Marsy’s Law, citing a lack of support for victims in the current criminal justice system,

“When the unthinkable happens, you are thrown into a complicated legal system with lots of questions, no answers, and no one to help walk you through the process,” said Laymen. “SQ 794 offers victims resources, guidance and the full support of the state Constitution in a way they just do not have now.”

Women’s Haven, near Duncan, is a crisis center for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Executive Director Cora Thomas said the Women’s Haven board voted to support Marsy’s Law and SQ 794 because victims are too often ignored. 

“It’s too easy for our criminal justice system to forget the victims of domestic violence,” said Thomas. “An abuser is arrested or locked up, and we act like the problem is solved for good. It isn’t. A victim of domestic abuse knows their attacker is out there and that one day he or she will be released.”

Thomas said Marsy’s Law empowers victims by giving them a Constitutional right to be involved in the criminal justice process. 

“Victims deserve to be informed of sentencing hearings and consulted on plea deals,” said Thomas. “If their attacker is released, they need to know that, and they need to know their whereabouts. Marsy’s Law gives victims a voice in the process, a right to be involved and a right to never be forgotten or cast aside by our criminal justice system.”     

Advocacy groups also point out that, many times, victims of assault or violence do not report crimes because they are intimidated by the criminal justice system. Marsy’s Law gives them more resources and protections as they navigate that process.

YWCA Oklahoma City CEO Jan Peery said that navigating the current criminal justice system can make it hard for victims to come forward.

“When you are the victim of abuse or assault it’s hard to come forward under any circumstances,” said Peery. “But the current system, where the rights are stacked in favor of the accused and offer very little protection or support for victims, can make it even harder. Marsy’s Law changes that dynamic by letting victims know they have rights too, their voices will be heard and they are valued and respected participants in the criminal justice system.”  

Read Victims Stories

Learn more about why victims support Marsy’s Law and State Question 794 by reading the stories below:

  • “You are forced to be invisible” – Kelly Vierling fights to fix a system that mistreats victims and their families. Read it here.  
  • “How do I protect myself and my family?” – Leesa Sparks wants to change a process that neglected her. Read it here.