Ballot question on crime victim's rights amendment, Marsy's Law, in jeopardy

Ballot question to add rights for crime victims in jeopardy

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania voters will have more than just candidates to vote for in November's general election.

They'll see a proposed amendment called Marsy's Law. It's a proposal that would provide constitutional protections for victims and only offer statutory protections.

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It's similar to Pennsylvania's Crime Victims Act, but advocates say it would give victims the same rights as those accused or convicted of a crime.

"What Marsy's Law is about is equaling the playing field between victims and criminals," said Laurie McDonald, of the Center for Victims.

It would give victims criminal case notifications, the right for victims to be heard and present at all court proceedings and further information about when perpetrators are released from prison.

Pennsylvania is one of only 15 states that does not provide constitutional protections for victims and only offers statutory protections.


State lawmakers in the House and Senate already passed the measure, sending it to the November ballot. It will become part of the state constitution if a majority of voters approve it.

The issue has its detractors.

The American Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit to block the bill, saying it's unconstitutional since it would add too many factors in one amendment.

"We think that Marsy's Law is largely unnecessary. It duplicates many of the provisions that currently exist under our statute," said Elizabeth Randol, of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. "We're concerned about how that definition will affect the way that our legal system looks at the presumption of innocence."

The idea for Marsy's Law was created in 1983 and named after a woman named Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend.