COLUMBUS — A group announced plans Tuesday to pursue a constitutional amendment requiring notifications for victims of all legal proceedings involving the perpetrators of their crimes.
Marsy’s Law for Ohio also would ensure victims’ input into plea deals, notifications of defendants’ releases from prison, and the right to financial restitution for losses caused by criminal acts.
Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center Executive Director Cathy Harper Lee, who is among supporters of the effort, said the proposed constitutional changes would “clearly articulate… that victims may assert their rights” and be “treated with fairness, dignity and respect.”
“They are very common sense things,” she said, adding, “In many, many jurisdictions throughout the state of Ohio, victims’ rights are being ignored.”
Backers of the proposal planned to submit their initial paperwork to the attorney general Tuesday afternoon. Pending approvals from that office and the state ballot board, the group would have to collect more than 305,000 signatures from registered Ohio voters by early July in order to qualify for the general election.
Comparable ballot efforts have been approved in a handful of other states — voters in North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana OK’d similar measures last year.
Rights spelled out in the proposed Ohio amendment include timely notice of criminal proceedings, opportunities to attend and be heard as part of those proceedings and reasonable notice of the release or escape of the accused.
The language would take the place of existing provisions in the state constitution that Harper Lee said don’t go far enough to ensure victims’ rights are protected.
“We are constantly faced with having to argue standing,” she said. “We have to argue, do victims have the right to have counsel… We’re just saying that if a victim has a specific right during a proceeding… and that those rights are being denied, then they should be able to enforce or protect their rights.”
The bill is named in memory of Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. According to backers of the Ohio amendment, Nicholas’ family members ran into the accused murderer in a grocery store a week after the murder, unaware that he had been released on bail.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.