Marsy’s Law was named after Dr. Nicholas’ sister, Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a beautiful, vibrant University of California Santa Barbara student, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, Dr. Nicholas and Marsy’s mother, Mrs. Marcella Leach , walked into a grocery store after visiting her daughter’s grave and were confronted by the accused murderer. The family had no idea that he had been released on bail.
The pain and suffering Marsy’s family endured after her death is typical for family members of murder victims. They were not informed Marsy’s murderer had been released because the courts and law enforcement, though well meaning, had no obligation to keep them informed. While criminals have more than 20 individuals rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, the surviving family members of murder victims have none.
But the passage of Marsy’s Law has changed that in California, Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Ohio. Victims of violent crime in these states must by law be treated with respect and dignity by the criminal justice system. Courts must consider the safety of victims and families when setting bail and release conditions. Family members have legal standing in bail hearings, pleas, sentencing, and parole hearings.
“If any good can come of something this horrible – the loss of my sister and the losses of other families of crime victims – it is that these violent acts served as a catalyst for change,” Dr. Nicholas said. “Marsy’s Law will provide for a more compassionate justice system for crime victims in California and make that a constitutional guarantee. Now the momentum can be put behind a U.S. Constitutional Amendment so that the rights of all crime victims, anywhere in America, can be protected.”