A ‘victims rights’ measure makes a comeback in Georgia



A national group backed by a California billionaire is back again this year with another attempt to get a constitutional amendment on victims’ rights on the Georgia ballot. And this time it has about 20 legislative co-sponsors, including leaders from both parties.

The legislation, known as Marsy’s Law, would require that victims and their families receive information about what services are available to them, notification of hearings and major developments in the criminal case and the right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings. It would also guarantee the right to restitution for victims and to give feedback to prosecutors before a plea deal.

“Marsy’s Law would give crime victims equal rights, nothing more, nothing less,” said state Sen. John Kennedy, a Macon Republican, adding that it gives victims legal “recourse if their rights were neglected.”

About 35 states have some form of “victims’ rights” protections in their state constitutions, with Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota joining the ranks in 2016. Georgia lawmakers took up a similar measure last year, but it failed to gain traction.

This year, co-sponsors include Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer and state Sen. Jeff Mullis, who heads the chamber’s Rules Committee, as well as Democratic state Sens. Nan Orrock and Elena Parent.

Georgia already has protections for victims in statutes, but this effort seeks to enshrine it in the state Constitution. That means that the legislation would require a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, and majority approval by Georgia voters in a ballot referendum.

The first Marsy’s Law was approved by voters in California in 2008 and Illinois voters okayed a more limited measure in 2014. It was named after Marsy Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

Marsy’s brother, Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry Nicholas, has spent millions bankrolling the initiative in California and elsewhere. Which is to say Georgia could see some more of that cash this year.

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