Speaking Up For Deborah - Michael Liles' Story
My life changed forever on March 23, 2017, when a convicted felon broke into my home and murdered my beautiful wife of 43 years. Our five children and I have agonized over the past eight months. We’ve been kept in the dark and navigating lengthy trials – all while grieving for the tragic loss of life. I’m doing everything I can to speak up for Deborah during the criminal justice process because her voice was taken from her. But, things would be much easier if crime victims and their families had enumerated protections in the Florida Constitution. That’s why we need Marsy’s Law.
I met Deborah in second grade and still can’t believe I was lucky enough to marry her. She was a beloved wife, mother, grandmother and elementary school music teacher. Needless to say, our entire community is mourning.
Eight months later and the nightmare continues. Nine court hearings just to determine the murderer’s competence to stand trial. A constant lack of information. Not knowing what the next step is. Unlike criminals, who are required by law to be informed of their rights, there is no set procedure for victims or their families. No guarantee that those working the case will keep us updated with pertinent information, or that we’ll be able to speak at hearings.
If Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission passes Marsy’s Law, and Floridians indicate their support on the 2018 General Election ballot, a permanent Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights will be added to our state constitution. The rights of the accused will remain in place and unchanged, but victims will finally have equal protections. They will have the right to receive timely notification of major developments in their case, to have a voice during plea bargains or parole hearings, to be treated with compassion.
I know Marsy’s Law won’t bring my wife back or prevent others from losing a loved one to an act of violence, but it will make it easier for us to heal. It will remind us that we have a voice, and that our voice matters.
Michael J. Liles is the husband of murder victim Deborah Liles and the Executive Director of the Justice Coalition.