Most people want one thing above all else when it comes to dealing with the criminal justice system: fairness. But fairness only comes when both sides start out with an equal footing.
Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case for victims of crime in Kentucky who are not provided the same level of constitutional rights as the accused.
Kentucky crime victims need your help, which you can offer by voting ‘yes’ on Constitutional Amendment 1 (Marsy’s Law) on or before Nov. 3. We need Marsy’s Law in Kentucky because it would finally give victims of crime a constitutionally protected right to be notified, be heard, and be present at key court proceedings without infringing upon the rights of the accused and convicted.
Throughout my time as both a prosecutor and a legislator, I have spoken to many people who have been hurt by the imbalance our current system allows. Their stories of fear, loss and pain are heartbreaking. But we have an opportunity to correct this imbalance of justice by supporting Amendment #1.
During my tenure as chairman of the state judiciary committee, I have proudly championed many meaningful efforts, including criminal justice reform, drug abuse care and prevention, and protections for dating violence victims, not because they are partisan in nature, but because they are issues that matter to all Kentuckians.
Honoring the rights of crime victims is no different. Marsy’s Law is a bipartisan, common-sense effort to help victims of crime achieve the justice they deserve. It’s list of local supporters spans the Commonwealth, and includes the Children’s Advocacy Centers of KY, KY Association of Sexual Assault Programs, Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, the Kentucky League of Cities, Kentucky Mental Health Coalition, the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association, and the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police just to name a few.
In the coming weeks, you’re going to hear a lot about Marsy’s Law/Amendment 1. And as the campaign season kicks into high gear, you will no doubt hear opponents launch ridiculous and unfounded attacks that are not supported in fact or in law.
Amendment 1 does not change the federal and state due process standards for criminal defendants, nor does it change existing self-defense and stand-your-ground laws. And nothing changes the presumption of innocence; in fact Amendment 1 reaffirms that protection.
Some will argue that they support victims, but that giving them constitutional rights goes too far.
To those individuals, I would ask — what if it was you or your loved one who was a victim of crime? Are you comfortable knowing that your rights aren’t protected at the same level as the accused and convicted? Wouldn’t you want a constitutional right to be heard and to be present in the courtroom? Wouldn’t you want a constitutional right to restitution? Victims shouldn’t be cast aside or ignored, but should be valued and heard. Victims deserve a voice.
If you agree, then please vote ‘yes’ on Constitutional Amendment 1.
Kentucky’s constitution protects against government overreach and guarantees participatory rights in government action — protections victims deserve. The constitutional rights Marsy’s Law would provide will improve the criminal justice system by ensuring fairness for all involved.
The need for Marsy’s Law is not hypothetical. Thousands of Kentuckians, including people you know, become victims of crime each year. For them, the need to be protected and given a voice is deeply felt.
When Kentuckians vote this year we will have the opportunity to permanently enshrine these rights into our state constitution. But to ensure this happens, we need your help to spread the word about Marsy’s Law by telling your friends, neighbors and colleagues about the importance of voting ‘yes’ on Constitutional Amendment 1. (Just keep in mind that you may have to flip over your ballot to find it.)
Let’s make 2020 the year we will finally give victims the protections, the voice and the dignity they deserve. Join me in supporting crime victims by voting ‘yes’ on Amendment 1.
Sen. Whitney Westerfield is a Hopkinsville Republican who represents Christian, Todd and Logan counties, and was the Senate Bill sponsor for Marsy’s Law.