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Marsy’s Law Constitutional Amendment Passes

Marsy’s Law Constitutional Amendment Passes

In early April, Wisconsin voters approved an amendment to its state constitution giving new rights to crime victims. The new amendment—Marsy’s Law, received significant bi-partisan and voter support but has also been met with criticism. Here is more on the passage of this state constitutional amendment.

Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee (Marsy) Ann Nicholas, a 21-year-old college senior who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in California in 1983. Just one week after her death, Marsy’s brother and mother were confronted by Marsy’s murderer while shopping in a community grocery store. No one had told them that the man was out on bail. He continued to harass Marsy’s family throughout the judicial proceedings until his conviction. Marsy’s murderer was later convicted and died in prison.

Marsy’s brother, Henry T. Nicholas III, went on to become the CEO and co-founder of the tech company Broadcom Corporation. He also made it his mission to make sure that other victims did not have to endure the same treatment that he and his family suffered after Marsy’s death. After leaving Broadcom, the billionaire started a national campaign to amend state constitutions to provide more protections for crime victims. Nicholas's efforts have been successful. Amendments similar to Marsy’s Law have been passed in several other states including Illinois, California, Florida, Georgia, and Ohio.

The New Amendment

Marsy’s Law adds several new rights for crime victims including the right to privacy, the right to have reasonable protection from the accused during both criminal and juvenile processes, the rightto get notified of all proceedings if requested, the right to confer with the government's attorney, and the right to be heard at any hearing where a right of a victim may be implicated. Victims will also have the right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or his or her representative. The definition of a victim under the law is an adult person who has had a crime committed against them. However, this definition can also extend to the victim's other loved ones if the person is deceased or is physically or emotionally unable to exercise his or her rights.

Opposition to Marsy’s Law

Critics of Marsy's Law have expressed concern that the accused is being deprived of the right to confrontation as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The domestic violence victim advocacy group End Abuse Wisconsin opposed the amendment on the basis that Wisconsin already has clear protections for victims within its laws. The group also felt that as written, Marsy's Law could infringe upon the fundamental right of an individual to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It’s evident that Marsy's Law is not without controversy, and the new amendment is likely to be tested through challenges in the state’s appellate courts.

Attorney Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience assisting clients during family law matters including domestic abuse and restraining orders, and can help you take a “first look” at your circumstances and determine your next steps. Please contact us to schedule a consultation.