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Oct 27 2017

Marsy’s Law For Georgia

by Camille B

M.Law

Tamiko Pugh had finally gathered enough strength and fortitude to walk out of the abusive relationship she was in; but when she tried to do so, her abuser informed her that he would rather kill them both than allow her to leave.

While they were driving on the interstate, he grabbed the steering wheel of the car they were in and caused them to have a wreck. Tamiko woke up disoriented and in a panic, lying in the middle of I-85 as cars whizzed past her.

She filed charges against him and he was jailed that day. She decided to use that time to file a restraining order against him, but as she walked into the courthouse that morning to do so she heard a familiar, chilling voice behind her saying, “Hello Beautiful.”

Unbeknownst to her, her abuser had been allowed to exercise his legal rights and was released on bond; no one called to give her any warning that he was out. In the months that followed, he violated his restraining order several times, harassing her and even physically attacking her at her workplace. (Marsy’s Law Campaign Blog, Victims’ Stories)

                                                                                                  ******

Just days before her death, Bridgette Flowers estranged husband assaulted her at a Walmart store. Surveillance video caught him punching her twice in the face, leaving her unconscious and laying on the floor. He was booked that night into the Bibb County Jail and the next day released on a special conditions bond- the special condition being that he could not contact his victim. Bridgette had no idea she could have had him re-arrested when he called and harassed her over and over again. The advocate’s office later told a reporter that it takes at least 30 days to give notification of rights to a crime victim. Bridgette Flowers died on Day 8. While with her children in a minivan on that fateful day in 2014, her husband Jasento Flowers, walked up, stuck a gun in the window and shot her. (Marsy’s Law Campaign Blog, Victims’ Stories)

I wish I could tell you that Tamiko and Bridgette’s cases are isolated ones, that stories like these are few and far between but the truth is that there are hundreds of victims throughout  the state of Georgia who are left every day feeling defenseless and at the mercy of their attackers and abusers as they attempt to navigate the legal process with no real backing.

The stories I read were shared by victims who felt like they had no voice while they waited for resolutions to cases that sometimes never came, and if they did, it would sometimes be after the fact and they never get a chance to be a part of the proceedings, to have an input, as was the case for Tammy Berryhil whose 19 year old daughter was killed by a distracted driver.

I called monthly to the Columbus DAs office asking for updates as to when the case would come to  trial…I was told that I would be given a call so I could be present and be a voice for my daughter. To my shock and dismay, one month when I called I was told that the case had already been to trial and was over. The accused was sentenced to 250 hours of community service and allowed to leave the state…my daughter’s voice was silenced. And by not being notified or being able to be present in court, I feel like her voice was silenced all over again.”

I find this totally unacceptable. Crime victims and their families are often times still grieving for their loved ones, or living in fear of their offenders even as they try get their lives back to some semblance of normalcy; to find relief, justice or closure; treating them like a number or statistic, would simply be adding insult to injury.

I believe they deserve to have rights that are recognized at the highest levels. Accused and convicted criminals have more than 20 individual rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. Crime victims have none, at least none that can be enforced, and as one person rightly said “Rights that are not enforceable are not really rights at all.” This is where Marsy’s Law comes in.

WHAT IS MARSY’S LAW?

Marsy’s Law was named in memory of Marsalee Nicholas, a 21 year old University student from California, who in 1983 was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. A week after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother were confronted by the accused murderer in the grocery store. They had no idea that he had been released on bail. They were not informed because the courts and law enforcement, though they meant well, were not obligated by law to keep them informed. Marsalee’s brother Dr. Henry Nicholas later founded Marsy’s Law for All. Since the beginning  of their fight for the legal rights of crime victims and their families, 35 states have adopted versions of Marsy’s Law as constitutional protections.

 STATUS OF MARSY’S LAW IN GEORGIA

Georgia is one of only 15 states that does not give equal constitutional rights and protections to crime victims.

It has had a crime victim’s bill of rights since 2010, which is a good thing in those jurisdictions that adhere to the state’s statutory laws protecting crime victims, but there is no recourse for crime victims in those that don’t. This is why many committed Georgians are pushing for the state to adopt its own version of Marsy’s Law to be written into the state constitution. (Ledger-Enquirer)

The Law is now under consideration in the Georgia State Senate, it was introduced by State Senator John F. Kennedy (R-Macon), during the 2017 General Assembly, passing the Senate 50-4 and crossing over to the House which will consider the constitutional amendment next year. You can contact your representative to learn more. 

Marsy’s Law would give victims:

-The right to be treated with courtesy, fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice proceedings,

-The right to receive information about their rights and the services available to crime victims.

-The right to receive timely notification of proceedings and other major developments in their case.

-The right to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status

-The right to be present in court proceedings. The right to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized.

-The right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release.

-The right to restitution.

You can also visit the website where you hear others share their stories.

” The goal of Marsy’s law is to (1) give crime victims equal constitutional standing in court with the accused or convicted criminal and (2) enforceable rights and remedy. Neither one of these rights is afforded to Georgia crime victims in our current law. Once we pass through the Georgia House and Senate, we will be on the 2018 ballot for the people of Georgia to vote.

No abuser should have more rights than the person they abused.”

Ann Casas (Marsy’s Law Campaign Blog)SM-M2Juj

 

Giving Victims A Voice

 

 

 

 

 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

DecaturGuest October 31, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Thanks for sharing this, Camille~ Very helpful info!

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