By Rep. Steve Mentzer (R-Lititz)
My colleagues and I are moving to strengthen the protections for victims of crime. Just as those accused of a crime have certain rights, we need to ensure crime victims are treated with dignity and respect throughout the entire criminal justice process.
Last session, we successfully passed the first phase of a constitutional amendment creating a Victims’ Bill of Rights (known as Marsy’s Law), which passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support.
Because this legislation proposes a constitutional amendment to establish inherent rights to victims of crime, the bill must pass both chambers in identical form, in consecutive legislative sessions before it can be placed on the ballot as a referendum. To accomplish this, the bill creating Marsy’s Law has been introduced this session as House Bill 276
Marsy’s Law is named for Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a California college student who was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s brother and mother walked into a grocery store and were confronted by the accused murderer, whom the family had no idea had been released on bail.
Marsy’s family has since championed for victim rights. The law, which has been adopted in six states (California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Ohio), stipulates that crime victims have the constitutional right to:
• Notice of hearings and other proceedings.
• Protection from the accused and notice of release or escape.
• Full and timely restitution and proceedings free from delays and with prompt conclusion.
• The ability to confer with the government’s attorney and information on all of these rights.
I believe we need to empower victims and help give them the courage to take the stand and testify, or just attend the proceedings. Granted, courtroom proceedings are not a perfect setting for victims, but it is the place and an opportunity to set things right about the crime that was inflicted upon them. It may also help victims in the healing process and gives power to the truth of their testimonies.