Marsy's Law - Putnam Sentinel

The effort to further the cause of justice always continues. This November, voters will have the opportunity to codify into the State’s constitution new rights and new protections for the most vulnerable participants in the criminal justice system - the victims. All are encouraged to vote yes on Issue One, Marsy’s Law.

This new act is an update on the 1994 constitutional amendment which was supported by 77 percent of Ohio voters. Issue One deserves an equal margin of victory, if not greater. It corrects deficiences in the earlier amendment. It ensures that victims of crime will be included as a party to their case. It provides for a legal recourse when victim’s rights are abridged. It guarantees that crime victims and their family members can provide input into plea bargains and can pursue financial restitution from the offender when appropriate. It literally gives voice to the voiceless, allowing those who are impacted the most from crime to have their say in court and in any plea negotiations that may be occuring between a prosecutor’s office and a defense attorney.

If a notice for a hearing is not provided to a victim, there is currently no corrective action required. Under current law, the victim is not a party to the case and lacks legal standing to force a re-hearing. The issue is most pertinent during sentencing. This is when victims finally have the chance to tell their story - to express the physical, emotional and financial consequences of being a victim, and any ongoing issues they may still be enduring. Being present and having a voice at such hearings has already resulted in judges weighing the sentences they hand down more fully against the impact of the crime. This allows the victim to receive even more of the justice they rightfully deserve.

The amendment will not overly burden the court system. Victims already have the right to be heard in court. Those courts that acknowledge the victim’s rights under the 1994 amendment, as is the case here in Putnam County, will see little change in their operations. The amendment also does not infringe upon the rights of the individual who is innocent until proven guilty. They will still be afforded all reasonable ability to defend themselves. Those individuals will simply no longer be the only ones whose rights are fully considered by the courts.

The right to privacy and to be treated with respect, fairness and dignity. The right to be heard. The right to not only be informed of an upcoming hearing in a timely manner, but to be present for it if you so desire. The right to reasonably protection from the accused. The right to receive notice of any release on bond or escape. The right to appropriate restitution from the convicted. The right to actually be party to a case that wouldn’t exist without you - the victim.

It can all be summarized with one word: justice. More often than not for victims and their families, justice is all they seek. By voting yes on issue one this November, voters can help all victims of crime achieve the justice they deserve.