Marsy’s Law for Ohio kicks off ballot campaign for crime victim bill of rights

COLUMBUS - A coalition of crime victims, advocates, prosecutors and law-enforcement officials united Wednesday in pushing for the passage of Marsy’s Law for Ohio, a crime victims’ bill of rights.

If voters approve the proposal bringing equal rights to crime victims this fall, Marsy’s Law for Ohio would provide additional protections in the constitution to crime victims and their immediate families.

“One of my key roles as county prosecutor is to be an ally and advocate for victims from all walks of life,” said veteran Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien. “By placing guarantees into the Ohio Constitution that a victim’s rights will be protected, Marsy’s Law for Ohio will be another important tool for prosecutors in the battle to help crime victims.

Under the Marsy’s Law for Ohio amendment, crime victims would have the right to notification of all proceedings as well as be guaranteed the right to be heard at every step of the process where their rights are implicated. Victims would have the right to have input on all plea deals for offenders as well as the right to restitution resulting from the financial impact of the crime. 

“The rights of crime victims are too important to be allowed to fall through the cracks in the criminal justice system,” said Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin. “I have long believed that the rights of crime victims should be respected just as much as the rights of the accused. Marsy’s Law for Ohio is a much-needed change to Ohio’s constitution.”

Also appearing at Wednesday’s Statehouse kick off were dozens of crime victims advocacy groups as well as several survivors of violent crimes who fully support Marsy’s Law for Ohio.

“My rights as a victim in the domestic violence case against my husband were routinely violated and no one in the system seemed to care,” said Danielle Morlan, a survivor of violent crime from central Ohio. “Marsy’s Law for Ohio will change that and give crime victims the ability to protect and enforce their rights.”

Wednesday’s announcement begins the campaign to enact Marsy’s Law for Ohio campaign, an 88-county movement to place a crime victims bill of rights into the Ohio Constitution. The effort in Ohio comes after similar ballot issues were approved in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Illinois and California.

The Marsy’s Law for Ohio campaign has cleared the initial legal hurdles and signature-gathers are beginning to collect the 305,591 valid signatures needed to place the amendment on the November 7 General Election ballot. Under Ohio law, signatures are due on July 5.

The Marsy’s Law movement began in 1983, when Marsy Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in California. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they saw the accused murderer. The family, who had just visited Marsy’s grave, had no idea the accused murderer had been released on bail.

Dr. Nicholas founded Marsy’s Law for All to ensure the re-victimization his family experienced after being thrust into the criminal justice process does not happen to anyone else. The organization works to provide victims and their families across the country with constitutional protections and equal rights. Dr. Nicholas is funding the Ohio effort in its entirety.