by Will Batista
Nevada is one of the last states in the nation without strong constitutional protections and guaranteed rights for victims of crime. It is time, once and for all, to change that. Marsy’s Law for Nevada — Question 1 on the November ballot — will provide protected guarantees to victims of crime. Doesn’t everyone targeted by a criminal deserve a few guarantees as their case proceeds in our legal system, just like the accused receive? Apparently, some people don’t believe so.
A recently published opinion piece took aim at the Marsy’s Law for Nevada crime victims’ rights measure. The op-ed even callously questioned the emotion and efforts of the family who started Marsy’s Law. A family whose college-age daughter, Marsy, was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend.
The critic who wrote the piece asks why a “wealthy” family is so worried about seeing laws changed on behalf of victims. The writer questioned Marsy’s family for feeling that victims deserve certain rights in the Constitution. The writer voiced concerns about the emotion of allowed victim statements during a trial and their impact on the accused and the trial outcome. The piece questioned whether a victim’s words of pain and anguish lead to objective, even-handed justice. As an example, the author wrote, “only one party in a murder trial is facing incarceration or death at the hands of the government…a victim is not subject to institutionalized loss of liberty.” He went on to say that “rights shouldn’t work by virtue of denying or diminishing other people’s rights.”
On behalf of every Nevadan who might one day find themselves a victim of a crime, we want you to know the facts on Marsy’s Law for Nevada.
It would ensure victims the right to receive information about the services available to them. The right to be treated with fairness and respect throughout the criminal justice process. The right to be protected from the defendant. The right to notice of all public proceedings in the case. The right to be reasonably heard, upon request, at all public proceedings regarding the case. The right to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding the case. The right to full and timely restitution.
These are just some rights included in the victims’ Bill of Rights proposed in the measure. Although Nevada does have certain victims’ rights in place thanks to the work of dedicated and community-minded leaders two decades ago, these rights are not enforceable or guaranteed in court.
Most states have independently approved constitutional protections for victims of crime. The Nicholas family believes all victims in every state deserve unquestioned consideration, information and a voice. Marsy’s Law has now been approved by voters in California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota and Ohio.
In the critical op-ed mentioned above, the writer predicts Marsy’s Law will pass with 85 percent approval in Nevada. We agree — and why not? The legislation has been a bipartisan collaboration by lawmakers and community advocates. That list, statewide, consists of well over 150 Nevada civic leaders including city, county, state and federal lawmakers, mayors, district attorneys, law enforcement officials and victims’ advocacy groups, along with thousands of citizens including victims of crime. They understand this is not about a family of means and their frustration with the legal system. Marsy’s Law is about standing up for all victims of crime to ensure they are not lost in the legal process and the maneuvering that follows.
Rights in the United States are not a zero-sum game. Because an individual has rights does not take away from those afforded to another party. It is in the balance of those guaranteed and enforceable rights that our justice system is best.
Most victims of crime have never been in a courtroom, through a criminal proceeding, and most are not lawyers. Victims deserve Marsy’s Law, and in this effort, Marsy represents every one of us who may one day be targeted by a criminal. We aren’t going to let any naysayers stop our effort to make sure that crime victims in Nevada have their voices heard. Marsy’s Law is about understanding the trauma that victims, and sometimes those they leave behind, face every day.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we would like to correct a blatant error by the writer of the negative opinion piece. The name of the young woman who died at the hands of her ex-boyfriend was Marsy Nicholas – not Nichols. Upon passage of this constitutional amendment, Marsy Nicholas will live on and represent the rights of all victims of crime in the Silver State. We hope voters will cast a vote for themselves in the fall and vote YES on Question 1 — Marsy’s Law for Nevada.
Will Batista is state director, Marsy’s Law for Nevada.