Louisville Courier Journal
Published 8:46 AM EST Jan 13, 2020
Following hundreds of pardons from former Gov. Matt Bevin, a Kentucky Republican has introduced Marsy's Law to the 2020 General Assembly.
Whitney Westerfield, of Crofton, has sponsored Senate Bill 15, which seeks to make sure victims of crime have rights "no less vigorous than the protections afforded to the accused."
Under the bill, introduced Thursday, victims of crime would be afforded "the reasonable right" to "timely notice" of a release, plea, sentencing and consideration for pardon or other sentence reduction.
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in June 2019 that a Marsy's Law proposal wasn't valid because the entire text wasn't published on the ballot.
The amendment received 63% support, however.
In an op-ed published on courierjournal.com last week, Westerfield wrote that, "Kentucky crime victims deserve constitutional rights."
"We need Marsy’s Law in Kentucky because it would finally give victims of crime a constitutionally protected right to be notified, be heard and be present at key court proceedings without infringing upon the rights of the accused and convicted," he wrote, adding later that the bill is bipartisan and a "common-sense effort to help victims of crime achieve the justice they deserve."
In a tweet about the bill, the legislator wrote that, "We’re 1 of 15 states without constitutional rights for victims. Victims deserve a meaningful role in the criminal justice process. The victims of Kentucky need us to step up again! #ML4KY."
The bill's introduction comes after Bevin received backlash for hundreds of case pardons before leaving office last month, from sex offender cases to homicides.
Since then, Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine condemned the decisions, saying the "spat of pardons" were handed out "with no considerations for the victims" and the pardon process needed a review.
After that, Christian County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Boling apologized for asking Bevin to pardon a convicted sex offender, saying he acted "out of emotion" and "made a monumental mistake."
More: Prosecutor says Matt Bevin should have contacted victims' families before issuing pardons
Marsy's Law is named for Marsy Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed in 1983 by a former boyfriend. Marsy's brother launched and funded a campaign to fight for victim's rights.
Marsy's Law has several opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (KACDL), which challenged the bill in 2018.
The ACLU of Kentucky posted on its website after Westerfield reintroduced the legislation that, "We oppose Marsy's Law because it unnecessarily complicates the criminal justice process, threatens to increase prison populations, interferes with due process, and clog our justice system."
Click this link to read a full copy of Westerfield's bill: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/recorddocuments/bill/20RS/sb15/orig_bill.pdf
Read this: Kentucky bills at General Assembly respond to Bevin’s flurry of last-minute pardons
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