COLUMBUS — Voters on Tuesday agreed to etch a victims’ bill of rights into the Ohio Constitution, becoming the latest state to embrace a movement that had its genesis in a murder that occurred 34 years ago and more than 2,000 miles away.
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Secretary of State election results showed roughly 80 percent of voters supporting Issue 1 Tuesday night.
Dubbed Marsy’s Law in honor of the Ohio native who inspired it, Issue 1 faced no organized opposition. Not a single TV ad aired against it, while the “yes” campaign featured actor Kelsey Grammer, past victims of crime, and a couple of prosecutors who bucked their statewide organization to back the plan.
They put personal faces on their arguments that current rights for victims are insufficient and that those that already exist are unevenly enforced by counties across the state.
The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, however, questioned the necessity of the amendment, saying much of it duplicates what already exists. They voiced fear it would slow down the judicial process and make it more expensive.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and defense lawyers suggested it would undercut the ability of those accused to defend themselves, all in the name of victims’ rights.
The campaign to gather the hundreds of thousands of signatures to put the constitutional amendment on the ballot and convince voters to support it was financed almost entirely by California high-tech entrepreneur, Henry Nicholas.
His sister, Marsalee Ann, was a 21-year-old college senior in 1983 when she was murdered by her ex-boyfriend.
The idea behind Marsy’s Law was born the day that Mr. Nicholas and his mother walked into a grocery store after visiting her grave, only to run into the man accused of killing her. He’d been released on bond pending trial without their knowledge.
"Marsy and I were born in Ohio, and to be able to bring enforceable constitutional rights for crime victims to a place so close to my heart is truly special,” Mr. Nicholas said. “Tonight’s vote was the result of nearly a year of hard work by the Marsy’s Law team and a clear demonstration of the continuing strength of our movement. Ohioans from all walks of life came out to support crime victims, and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts."
Among other things, the amendment gives victims, upon request, the right to be notified, to attend, and be heard at plea, sentencing, parole and other proceedings involving the offender. They would have the right to proceedings without unreasonable delay, the right to full and timely restitution, and the right to confer with the government’s attorney.
The provision facing some controversy gives victims the right to refuse some discovery requests made by the accused. Defense lawyers argued this could undermine the accused’s ability to gather information necessary to defend themselves while backers of the amendment countered that it was designed to prevent the accused from using the discovery process to harass the victim.