Marsy’s Law for North Dakota Urges Officials To Prioritize Victims’ Rights in Midst of COVID-19 Outbreak
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, March 23, 2020
Nick Klitzing, K2 & Co.
Marsy’s Law denounces ACLU’s call to commute sentences and release prisoners without consideration for victims’ rights
In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the North Dakota Supreme Court declared a state of emergency for the judicial branch statewide and suspended all civil and criminal jury trials not already in progress through April 24. Shortly thereafter, the ACLU of North Dakota called on officials to commute the sentences of offenders or otherwise release them, even convicted felons, without any consideration for victims’ rights.
While Marsy's Law for North Dakota appreciates the need to take extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, government and criminal justice officials must also remember that victims have rights enshrined in the North Dakota Constitution that must be considered. Those protections include the right for victims and family members of victims to provide input during deliberations on the early release or parole of offenders, as well as timely notification when an offender is released from prison. The ACLU of North Dakota’s call to release prisoners and offenders without victim input defies those constitutional protections.
Marsy’s Law for North Dakota released the following statement (attributable to Erinn Mahathey, National Outreach Director for Marsy's Law):
“Marsy's Law for North Dakota urges government officials to prioritize their constitutional duty to allow victims to be notified and heard before the release of inmates or pretrial offenders while taking any measures to address the potential spread of COVID-19. Notification of inmates’ release – whether early or on schedule – is now a constitutional right provided to crime victims. ACLU of North Dakota’s call to release offenders and prisoners, without consideration for victim rights, ignores the constitutional rights of all North Dakotans. We appreciate that government and law enforcement officials must make difficult decisions to help alleviate the spread of COVID-19, and we support extraordinary efforts to contain this global pandemic. But we want to make sure the interests of victims are considered and their constitutional rights are upheld throughout every step of the criminal justice process, even in this time of crisis.”
About Marsy’s Law for North Dakota:
Marsy's Law for North Dakota led the campaign in 2016 to pass a Crime Victims' Bill of Rights ratifying Article 1 Section 25 of the North Dakota Constitution. The amendment passed overwhelmingly with 62%, giving crime victims in North Dakota meaningful and enforceable constitutional rights equal to the rights of the accused.
Marsy’s Law for North Dakota is a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights that is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Ann Nicholas, a beautiful, vibrant college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, her mother Marcella and her brother Henry walked into a grocery store after visiting Marsy’s grave and were confronted by the accused murderer. They had no idea that he had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.