State lawmakers hoping to add a victim’s bill of rights to the constitution

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OKLAHOMA CITY – State lawmakers are pushing to amend the constitution by adding a victim’s bill of rights.

“I was sexually abused by my father for five years, from the time I was 11 to the time I was 16,” said Virginia Lewis.

Lewis’ father got a deferred sentence, but she believes tougher victims’ rights would have empowered her.

“Well, if my father had been held accountable for his crime, certainly when he had been freed, chances are great that I wouldn’t have been notified,” she said.

Which is part of Marsy’s Law, an initiative started in 1983 after Marsy Nicholas, a California college student, was allegedly stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend.

A week later, Marsy’s mother ran into the accused murderer at the grocery store.

She had no idea he’d been released on bail.

Since then, Marsy’s Law has been enacted in five states, and Representative Scott Biggs (R) District 51 is hoping Oklahoma will be the next.

The House Joint Resolution would amend the constitution to provide a victim’s bill of rights.

The victim would receive their rights up front, similar to Miranda Rights for defendants.

“Basically, the victims are going to have a list of the rights up front. You have the right to have notification when hearings are. You have the right to be heard when it comes to a case,” Biggs said.

Not everyone is in favor of passing Marsy’s Law.

Those who oppose the law said it would be redundant since victim’s rights are already protected under our state’s current laws.

ACLU Executive Director Ryan Kiesel sent us this statement:

“Oklahoma already has several laws that protect the rights of victims during and after criminal trials. We are not aware of any reason why these current protections are inadequate and urge legislators to only amend the Oklahoma constitution in extraordinary circumstances. It is also important to remember, that in every criminal trial the defendant is presumed innocent. This presumption is a bedrock value of the American criminal justice system, and we must be very careful that any effort, however well intentioned, does not unlawfully prejudice a defendant’s right to a fair trial or any post-conviction relief.” 

Still, Biggs believes amending the constitution will beef up victim’s rights.

“What we currently have now is in state statute. What we’ve seen is there are some judges across the state who will place the defendants’ rights, because they are in our state constitution, over the victim,” Biggs said.

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