NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Two state lawmakers are hoping to strengthen crime victims’ rights by amending the state constitution.
Sen. John Stevens (R-Huntingdon) and Rep. Patsy Hazelwood (R-Signal Mountain) introduced a joint resolution, known as Marsy’s Law, that would define “clear enforceable rights and protections for victims in our state’s most powerful legal document,” according to a news release from the group supporting the legislation.
If passed in two consecutive legislative sessions and signed by the governor, the constitutional amendment guaranteeing these protections would be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters to approve.
Senate Joint Resolution 885 and House Joint Resolution 822, known as Marsy’s Law,
“More than 20 years ago, 89% of Tennesseans voted to give crime victims the rights they deserve by adopting a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. But unfortunately, victims find these rights to be unenforceable under current law and the rights of victims are not always protected,” Sen. Stevens said. “Tennesseans have made it clear they want equal rights for crime victims and adopting Marsy’s Law in our state would guarantee they are protected.”
The rights in the bill include:
- The right to be treated with fairness for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy;
- The right, upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of, and to be present at, all criminal public proceedings and all juvenile delinquency proceedings involving the accused;
- The right to be heard in any proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, and parole, as well as any public proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated;
- The right to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice system, including reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
- The right, upon request, to reasonable notice of any release or escape of an accused;
- The right to refuse a request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant for an interview, deposition, discovery request, or other communication with the victim;
- The right to full and timely restitution from the offender;
- The right to a speedy trial or disposition and a prompt and final conclusion of the case after the conviction or sentence;
- The right, upon request, to confer with the prosecution;
- The right to be fully informed of all rights afforded to crime victims.
“We need to update Tennessee’s Constitution to give the victims of crime legal standing to assert their rights,” said Representative Hazlewood. “Victims need our support and deserve our protection. That’s why we are working together across the aisle to pass Marsy’s Law.”
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who killed by her former boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer.
The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. Henry formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009.