Rep. Don Parsons (R-Marietta) and Rep. Virgil Fludd (D-Tyrone) on Thursday introduced Marsy’s Law for Georgia to elevate crime victims’ rights to the state constitution.
“In Georgia, people convicted or accused of crimes have constitutional rights, but their victims do not,” said Parsons. “In 2010, I sponsored and passed a bill that put comprehensive victims’ rights into state law. In these six years, we’ve shown we can prioritize the needs of victims and their families without putting an undue burden on the criminal justice system. We know it works; now it’s time to join the majority of states by putting victims’ rights in the state constitution.”
“The highest rights in our society are embedded in our constitution,” noted Fludd, Democratic Caucus chairman. “Marsy’s Law gives victims the same rights as the criminals who harmed them, and the support they and their families need during a stressful, scary legal process. In 2016, Georgians can vote to bring our state in line with more than 30 other states that already have enshrined the rights of victims in their most sacred legal documents. I’m sponsoring this legislation because I believe victims deserve – at the very least – rights equal to those who victimize them.”
Other early signers include House Judiciary Chairman Wendall Willard and Atlanta Democrat Margaret Kaiser.
A state constitutional amendment for victims’ rights would guarantee crime victims and their families the following:
- The right to receive information about their rights and the services available to them.
- The right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case.
- The right to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status.
- The right to be present at court proceedings and provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized.
- The right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any processes that might result in the offender’s release.
- The right to restitution.
Marsy’s Law for Georgia stems from a national effort spearheaded by Dr. Henry Nicholas of California, whose sister, Marsy, was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Shortly thereafter, the killer, who unbeknownst to the family had been released on bond, confronted him and his mother at a grocery store. Since then, Dr. Nicholas’ mission has been protecting the rights of victims.
“I believe these rights are fundamental,” said Parsons, “and fundamental rights belong in a constitution. I encourage my colleagues in the General Assembly to discuss this effort with their constituents because I believe wholeheartedly it will enjoy widespread, bipartisan support in their districts.”
“Try as we might, we’ll never prevent all crimes, but as a state, we can do everything in our power to make things right for those victimized by it,” said Fludd.
Amending Georgia’s state constitution with Marsy’s Law requires a two-thirds majority of the state House and Senate, and majority approval by Georgia voters.