A national group backed by a California billionaire is ready to wage a campaign to get a constitutional amendment on victims’ rights on the Georgia ballot in November.
House Resolution 1199 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.
If the legislation's sponsors are any indication, the measure has bipartisan appeal. The backers include Republicans Don Parsons and Wendell Willard - the chair of the House Judiciary Committee - and Democrats Virgil Fludd and Margaret Kaiser.
“In Georgia, people convicted or accused of crimes have constitutional rights, but their victims do not,” said Parsons.
Added Fludd: "I’m sponsoring this legislation because I believe victims deserve – at the very least – rights equal to those who victimize them.”
About 30 states have some form of “victims’ rights” protections in their state constitutions, and the group Marsy’s Law for All is targeting Georgia and six other states that don’t have them this year.
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 approved a similar, but 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 a tide of cash could be headed to Georgia to help this measure along.