Now 40% of Americans live in states that have equal constitutional rights to the accused and convicted enshrined in their state constitutions
Philadelphia, PA – Voters in Pennsylvania have overwhelmingly voted to amend their state constitution to include Marsy’s Law, a victims’ rights initiative that guarantees crime victims with an equal level of constitutional protections already afforded to the accused and convicted. Pennsylvania now joins Nevada, Oklahoma, Kentucky, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, California, Illinois, North Dakota, Montana and South Dakota in passing Marsy’s Law, ensuring that 40% of Americans now live in states that have rights they can assert in the criminal justice system should they ever become crime victims.
Unlike those who are accused of a crime, 15 state constitutions and even the U.S. Constitution, have no enumerated rights for crime victims and their families. Now, voters in these 13 states have voted to amend their state constitutions to provide crime victims with constitutional protections, equal to those rights afforded to the accused and convicted.
Chairman and Founder of Marsy’s Law for All, Dr. Henry Nicholas, greeted the news by saying, “This is a great day for victims of crime in Pennsylvania. Voters have shown that they care deeply about equal rights for crime victims. It is a testament to the power of our cause and the strength of our movement.”
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. “Going through the criminal justice process as a victim was an eye-opening experience, during which we quickly realized the need for stronger rights for victims of crime in so many states throughout the country.”
“It is gratifying to know that innocent victims of crime in Pennsylvania will not have to suffer the injustices that my family endured upon my sister’s murder. This would not have been 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 Pennsylvania means that nearly one out of every three Americans will be living in a state with Marsy’s Law in their constitution. 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.”
Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania: A Bipartisan Effort
Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania was been met with broad, bipartisan support in the legislature over the past two years. House Bill 276, sponsored by Rep. Sheryl Delozier, was approved unanimously by the Senate and was approved by the House of Representatives in a vote of 190-8. During the 2017-18 legislative session, Marsy’s Law was sponsored by then-State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler and passed unanimously in both legislative bodies.
"This is a truly historic day in our commonwealth, it is the day that we finally stop failing crime victims,” said Jennifer Storm, Commonwealth Victim Advocate. “Victims are forced into the criminal justice system – through no fault of their own – after enduring horrible trauma, and this constitutional amendment will finally restore balance by putting the rights of victims at an equal level to those of the accused.”
Marsy’s Law has also been supported by countless groups and individuals with a strong interest in victims’ rights, including: Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Office of the Victim Advocate, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, and Philadelphia City Council, as well as victim service providers across the state.
Marsy’s Law for All Fast Facts
- In 2008, with 54%, Marsy’s Law passed and became law in California.
- In 2014, voters in Illinois passed Marsy's Law by a resounding 78%, one of the largest constitutional votes in Illinois history.
- In 2016, voters in Montana (66%), North Dakota (62%) and South Dakota (60%) overwhelmingly passed Marsy’s Law in their states.
- In 2017, Ohio voters passed Marsy’s Law by an incredible 83%.
- In 2018, Marsy’s Law succeeded in six states: Kentucky (63%), Oklahoma (78%), North Carolina (62%), Nevada (61%), Florida (62%) and Georgia (80%).
- In 2019, Marsy’s Law passed in Pennsylvania overwhelmingly.
- Marsy’s Law for All is active in a number of other states across the country that don’t provide equal rights for crime victims.
Marsy’s Law for All: Enforceable Constitutional Rights
Marsy’s Law is about providing victims of crime with meaningful, enforceable rights. While the specific rights can vary from state to state, every state that passes Marsy’s Law has these core rights:
- the right to timely notice of proceedings;
- the right to be present;
- the right to be heard; and
- the right to standing before the judge, or an appellate court, if a victim feels their rights have been violated.
For more information on Marsy’s Law for All, please visit: www.marsyslaw.us.