Local legislator pushing to make victims' rights equal to those accused of crimes

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When a violent crime is committed, much of the focus is on the person being taken away in handcuffs.

And while suspects’ have plenty of rights, none exist for the victims – a reality one local lawmaker is fighting to change.

It's been more than two years since Amanda McKnight's son David was killed inside their Mt. Oliver home. Two years with few answers.

“My son was 11. He didn't ask for a death sentence at 11 years old,” she said. “We feel helpless when our loved one is abruptly taken away. You feel powerless and you have so many questions.”


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It's a reality for many victims that could soon change.

State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler will soon introduce Marsy's Law, a bill that would create a victim's bill of rights in Pennsylvania. It is patterned after a California law passed in 2008 named after Marsy Nicholas, a college student stalked and murdered by her boyfriend in 1983.

Similar laws are in place in Illinois and Ohio and being considered in several other states.

If passed, the court system would have to consider the safety and wellbeing of victims when making decisions about bail, release conditions and hearings.

As it stands now, victims have no official rights in Pennsylvania.

“We just want to make sure the victims of crimes have the same rights as the accused in the criminal justice system,” Reschenthaler said.

Reschenthaler expects the bill will get plenty of support and he hopes it eventually will become a constitutional amendment.

“I have a feeling a lot of people are going to get behind the bill,” he said. “My goal is to get this to pass with a unanimous vote.”

Reschenthaler plans on introducing Marsy's Law by January, the beginning of what could be a lengthy process to change the state constitution in the name of victims’ rights.


 

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