COLUMBUS (WCMH) – An amendment aiming to ensure equal rights for crime victims in Ohio is on the November 7th ballot.
If passed, Issue 1 or Marsy’s Law would amend the state Constitution and allow a way to enforce crime victims’ rights. The ACLU of Ohio opposes the measure, but advocates say victims’ rights have been ignored long enough.
“He was just an incredible person,” said Stacey Stevens. “He was always paying it forward to his community.”
Stevens said her father, Gary Stevens, was killed in Hocking County last September during a home invasion.
“He was home alone in his house with his four puppy dogs and two folks broke into his home and murdered him,” she said.
Since then, Stevens says it’s been an ongoing nightmare dealing with losing him and dealing with the legal system.
“I’m dealing with whether I can be present at court hearings that I’m allowed to be at that right now they’re saying I shouldn’t be, so a week and a half from trial they’re still arguing about things,” said Stevens. “I feel like the hits just keep coming.”
But, she said Issue 1 gives her hope.
“Although there are many rights for victims right now, many jurisdictions are ignoring their rights and when you try to enforce them the victims don’t have the ability to,” said exec. dir. of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center Cathy Harper Lee.
She said Issue 1 aims to change that by making sure their right to information, notification, to be present and heard is upheld during the criminal justice process.
In addition, Issue 1 would also allow victims to refuse to participate in interviews, depositions or other discovery requests made by the defense. That’s one of the reasons why the ACLU of Ohio opposes the measure, stating quote:
“The ACLU fully supports the enforcement of existing legal protections for victims, but this law would negatively impact the accused’s constitutional right to due process. Cooperation by both parties is essential to a fair trial, but this proposed amendment will threaten due process for those still presumed innocent.” – Gary Daniels, Chief Lobbyist, ACLU of Ohio
According to the Issue 1 campaign, the Marsy’s Law movement started in 1983 after a woman was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. Her family ran into the accused killer at the grocery, not knowing he had been released on bail. Similar issues have been passed in states like California, Illinois, North and South Dakota, as well as Montana.