Marsy’s Law passes overwhelmingly in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana
For Immediate Release
November 8, 2016
Contact: Gail Gitcho
BOZEMAN, MT – Marsy’s Law For All announced tonight that Marsy’s Law has been passed overwhelmingly in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana. Crime victims in these states now have rights that are protected by their respective state constitutions. These states join California and Illinois, that have passed Marsy’s Law, which provides for a Constitutional Bill of Rights to counterbalance the rights of the accused or convicted in the criminal justice system.
Unlike those who are accused of a crime, 18 state constitutions and even the U.S. Constitution, have no enumerated rights for crime victims and their families. Voters in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana have now voted to amend their state constitutions to provide crime victims with constitutional protections, equal to those rights afforded to the accused and convicted.
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas. Marsy was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after she was murdered, her mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, went to visit Marsy’s grave and then walked into a local grocery store where they were confronted by the murderer. Because the courts and law enforcement were under no obligation to keep them informed, the family had no idea that he had been released on bail or that he would remain free until his conviction. After the murderer was convicted and was serving his sentence, Dr. Nicholas and his mother were required to attend numerous parole hearings in order to keep Marsy’s murderer in jail. This traumatic “reliving” of the murder at parole hearings caused Dr. Nicholas’ mother to have a heart attack. Dr. Nicholas has made it his mission in life to give victims and their families across the country constitutional protections and equal rights.
“In 1983, my family was forever changed by the murder of my sister, Marsy,” said Dr. Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom. “Going through the criminal justice process was an eye-opening experience, during which we quickly realized the need for stronger rights for victims of crime in our state of California and throughout the country.”
“It is gratifying to know that innocent victims of crime in these three states will not have to suffer the injustices that my family endured upon my sister’s murder. This would not be possible without the herculean efforts of our dedicated volunteers, crime victims, and their family members, victims’ advocates, law enforcement, and of course the voters,” he continued. “Passing Marsy’s Law in these states adds nearly 3 million more Americans, in addition to the millions in California and Illinois, who now have the strong, enforceable, constitutional rights ensured through Marsy’s Law. These are rights that all Americans deserve. I am eternally grateful for all who’ve supported these efforts and look forward to our continued work on this much-needed change for victims in our country.”
Kathleen Wrigley, chair of Marsy’s Law for North Dakota, said, “On behalf of our team, I’d like to thank the volunteers and professionals, who signed on to support Marsy’s Law, gathered signatures, spoke at clubs and associations, and worked hard to elevate victims’ rights in North Dakota. I’d also like to personally thank the tens of thousands of North Dakotans who came out to the polls to support emboldening victims’ rights in North Dakota. I am sincerely touched to have been entrusted with the task of chairing this important measure. And to the victims of crime in North Dakota who have bravely shared their stories – privately or publicly – thank you. Today you win. Victims’ voices have been heard in every law enforcement office, every law office, every prosecutor’s office, every judge’s chambers, and in households across our state. You win. Your voices matter. You win.”
Beadle County State’s Attorney, and Marsy’s Law for South Dakota key supporter, Michael Moore, said, “It is a watershed moment for crime victim rights in South Dakota. Victims will now be guaranteed a seat at the table in the criminal justice process and for the first time in our state history, victims will have equal constitutional rights. Marsy’s Law will help thousands of crime victims in our state. Victims will now have enforceable rights to privacy, the right to notification, and the right to be heard at all stages of the criminal justice system.”
Derek VanLuchene, the brother of a murder victim and key supporter for Marsy’s Law for Montana, said, “This is a resounding victory for victims of crime in Montana and their families, and really for all Montanans. Marsy’s Law provides the equal rights that victims deserve. Overnight, Montana has gone from having some of the weakest protections for victims, to the strongest.” VanLuchene is from Helena and is the founder of Ryan United, an organization that advocates for victims and trains law enforcement in child sexual assault and kidnapping cases.
About Marsy’s Law For All
Marsy’s Law is a bipartisan cause. Providing crime victims with constitutional protections is one of the rare political causes that both Republicans and Democrats have been unified in supporting. Marsy’s Law has already been passed and already become law in both California and Illinois. In Illinois, Marsy’s Law passed by an overwhelming 78%, the largest margin of victory for any constitutional amendment since Illinois’ inception as a state.
Marsy’s Law is a constitutional amendment for victims’ rights that would guarantee equal rights to crime victims.
Under Marsy’s Law, victims and their families receive information about their rights and the services available to them. They have the right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case. They have the right to receive timely notifications of changes to the offender’s custodial status. Victims and their families have the right to be present at court proceedings and to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized. They have the right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release. Finally, they have the right to restitution.
For more information on Marsy’s Law For All, please visit: www.marsyslaw.us.