The president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil and human rights organization, announces its endorsement of Amendment 6 on the Florida ballot. The amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, would establish a series of specific rights for crime victims in the state.
SCLC president Charles Steele, Jr., traveled to Tallahassee Thursday morning to announce the group’s support. Steele says being a victim of crime can change a person’s life forever and that the days and months following a crime can be some of the darkest periods of crime for a victim.
“The trauma, pain and fear associated with that life-altering event lasts long after the justice process concludes,” said Steele. “However, while they are navigating that justice process, crime victims should be able to take comfort in knowing they are guaranteed certain rights and protections. Amendment 6 provides that comfort and gives a voice to those who are currently silenced.”
Amendment 6 is named Marsy’s Law after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California. She was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother encountered her accused killer at a grocery store after just visiting her grave. They had not been told he had been released on bail.
In Florida, Marsy’s Law would provide certain rights and protections that are similar to those already afforded those who are accused or convicted of a crime.
Those rights would include making sure victims have standing in court and that they have the right to be present at all proceedings in the case. Victims would have to be given timely notice of proceedings and they would have the right to be heard in any proceeding in which a victim’s right is implicated.
Victims would have the right to be notified in a timely manner when an accused person is released, escapes or dies.
Marsy’s Law was placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission. The CRC meets every 20 years to consider changes to the Florida Constitution. It was sponsored by CRC member Tim Cerio.
“I sponsored this amendment during the CRC process because it became clear there was a need for it,” Cerio said. “As we traveled around the state, we heard from victim after victim who felt ignored or left out of the criminal justice process.”
Opponents of Amendment 6, including the the Florida Public Defenders Association and the League of Women Voters, say many of the provisions in the amendment already exist in Florida. There is also concern that, if adopted, the amendment could affect the rights of the accused.