Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and state Sen. Lauren Book are joining a national victims’ rights group to ask Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission for an amendment to give equal rights for crime victims.
While most states give crime victims constitutional-level protections, Florida remains one of 15 that does not.
Marsy’s Law for Florida, the organization working to amend the Florida constitution, on Monday announced it would offer language to the CRC to place on the 2018 ballot. The CRC meets every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution for voter consideration; Nocco sits as one of the commission’s 37 members.
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, the accused murderer confronted Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, at a grocery store. The family was not informed the accused was released on bail.
Dr. Henry Nicholas III, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has since pushed for constitutional protections and equal rights for the families of crime victims.
In 2009, he formed “Marsy’s Law for All,” giving support and education for victims’ rights organizations nationwide. Since California passed the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, Marsy’s Law legislation has also succeeded in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois.
If approved by 60 percent of voters, the Florida amendment will guarantee victims of crime and their families certain protections, like those offered to the accused and convicted.
Victims and their families would be informed of their rights and services available, and would be notified of major developments in a criminal case and of changes to an offender’s custodial status, such as being released on bail.
It would allow victims and their families the right to be present — and heard — at court proceedings, providing feedback to the prosecutor before finalizing a plea agreement and establishing a right to restitution from the convicted.
Both Nocco, a Republican, and Book, a first-term Democratic senator from Plantation, will declare their support for Marsy’s Law through a pair of minute long videos available online and in social media. Nocco and Book will personally introduce the language to the CRC.
“When a crime is committed, the rights of the victim should be equal to the rights of the accused,” Nocco said. “This seems like common sense, but in Florida today, victims’ rights are not guaranteed.”
He added: “I’m bringing this language before the CRC because I believe my fellow commissioners and the citizens of Florida agree that victims of crimes should be treated fairly, with dignity, and the same constitutional rights as the accused.”
Book, herself an abuse survivor, is the founder of Lauren’s Kids, a nonprofit using education and awareness to combat sexual abuse of children.
“I’ve spent my life advocating for victims’ rights and I’m proud to support Marsy’s Law,” Book said. “The pain a victim suffers in the aftermath of a crime is hard enough without being re-victimized by the criminal justice system. Whether or not the system honors and protects the rights of a victim can be the difference between that victim achieving justice, healing and survivorship, or feeling lost and let down — or even worse, completely ignored.”
“Marsy’s Law will give each victim the promise of having their voice heard,” she added.
Information on the Marsy’s Law nationwide initiative is at marsyslaw.us, Facebook and Twitter.
For the group’s Florida efforts, visit marsyslaw.us/marsys-law-state-efforts/florida or @MarsysLawForFL on Twitter.