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Marsy’s Law appears on the ballot again with much more wording

Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 6:54 PM EDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Voters in Kentucky will choose whether or not to pass Marsy’s Law this election.

“We’re one of 15 states that doesn’t have some form of constitutional protection for our crime victims,” said Senator Whitney Westerfield (R-KY), District 3 who is also the bill sponsor.

Over 868,000 Kentuckians voted to pass Marsy’s Law in 2018, but the Supreme Court overturned it after ruling the wording on the ballot was too vague.

“They didn’t rule on or even consider the merits of the amendment they were looking at just the ballot question,” said Westerfield.

The amendment would give certain rights to victims, such as notifying them about the accused.

“To make sure the victim has a voice that’s meaningful and they have a role in the process without interfering with the rights of the accused. If 35 other states have managed to do that, Kentucky can do that," said Westerfield.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the amendment say this already exists.

“Every prosecutor I’ve ever worked with has a victim’s advocate that works in their office and their purpose and their job that is already funded, and is to communicate with the victims and make sure that they’re aware of proceedings and make sure that they have a voice,” said local attorney, Alan Simpson.

Another concern Simpson talked about is in the wording of the bill.

“It almost seems as if this law is written as if everyone who is accused is guilty and that’s a scary thought," he added.

Westerfield says while this might exist, it only does for certain crimes and it’s not written in the state’s constitution.

“This doesn’t exist. There are some statutory rights right now. I think two or three rights or statues but they only apply to the victims of 21 specific crimes. If you go to the statute right now, if you’re not one of the victims of one of these 21 crimes that are listed, you have no rights at all," he said.

“It would be a slap in the face to advocates that work and do great work keeping victims informed,” expressed Simpson.

The bill received bipartisan support in the House and Senate before making its way to the ballot. The law is almost identical to the 2018 version. One new provision ensures victims have the right to be heard and notified in the consideration of any pardon or commutation as well. This added provision was inspired following former Governor Matt Bevin’s sudden pardons and commutations before he left office.

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