SWINDLE COLUMN: Explaining Marsy’s Law

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, November 3, 2021

It’s California 1983,  21-year-old Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas is afraid. Her ex-boyfriend is stalking her. She knows that something bad is about to happen. 

She is right. Soon after she feels those intuitions, she is murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Days after Marsy’s murder, her mother sees the accused killer in the grocery store.

No one told the family that the accused had been released on bail.

Her brother, who perhaps suffered the worst from the DA not notifying the family, is determined to prevent other families from enduring similar pain and give alleged victims a stronger voice in the criminal justice system. He launches Marsy’s Law for All.

This movement represents a nationwide campaign that seeks to place alleged crime victims’ rights in state constitutions. Many states and the federal government already have similar alleged victims’ bill of rights in their laws. But, their enforcement was inconsistent.

By placing these rights in state constitutions, Marsy’s Law strives to give alleged victims stronger options to hold governments accountable for failing to protect victims’ rights. The campaign seeks to place alleged victims’ rights on equal footing with criminal defendants’ rights in every state constitution. California became the first state in 2008 to approve Marsy’s Law as an amendment to the state constitution. On May 8, 2018, Gov. Nathan Deal signs the bill to implement Marsy’s Law in Georgia. It quickly takes effect as voters approve constitutional rights for crime victims in November.

“Our landmark criminal justice reforms over the past eight years are saving tax dollars, decreasing recidivism and bolstering our workforce,” Deal said. “Marsy’s Law for Georgia complements these efforts by strengthening the protections for those who’ve been hurt by criminal actions.”

How Does Marsy’s Law Work in Georgia?

According to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PAC), Marsy’s The Georgia Crime Victims Bill of Rights (MGCVBR), O.C.G.A. 17-17-1 provides individuals who are victims of  crimes specific rights. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, these rights are constitutionally protected and enforced (Georgia Constitution Art. I, Sect. I, Paragraph XXX).

These rights include:

  • The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any scheduled court proceedings or any changes to such proceedings;
  • The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of the arrest, release, or escape of the accused;
  • The right not to be excluded from any scheduled court proceedings, except as provided by law;
  • The right to be heard at any scheduled court proceedings involving the release, plea, or sentencing of the accused;
  • The right to file a written objection in any parole proceedings involving the accused;

Just like every change in policy, there is a level of controversy. However, this is an excellent law because it provides alleged victims an opportunity to engage in the criminal justice process. In a way, it provides alleged victims a sense of control where before they had very little.