What is Marsy’s Law?

Wisconsin recently became the latest state to pass the crime victims’ rights legislation known as Marsy’s Law. Its supporters insist that the law makes the rights of victims and their families as strong as the rights of the accused. Opponents, however, note that Wisconsin already has similar legal measurements in place and that Marsy’s Law infringes on the rights of the accused.

Marsy’s Law essentially provides new constitutional protections for crime victims, providing them with rights that include privacy; treated with respect and fairness; protection from the accused; notifications of legal proceedings; refusing an interview by the accused; and receiving information about the status of investigations.

Named for 1983 California murder victim

In 2008, California became the first state to pass Marsy’s Law, essentially a crime victims’ bill of rights. Since then, Wisconsin joined several other states in passing the law, championed and bankrolled by billionaire Henry Nicholas, the founder of software firm Broadcom. Nicholas is the brother of Marsalee Ann “Marsy” Nicholas, the law’s namesake.

Marsy Nicholas was a California college student murdered in 1983 by ex-boyfriend Kerry Conley. In the two years before his 1985 conviction of second-degree murder, Conley roamed free after posting bail. The victim’s family was unaware of Conley’s release and found out in a startling way. After Marsy’s funeral services, her mother stopped into a grocery store and encountered Conley in the checkout line. Conley continued to torment the family by driving around their neighborhood.

Opponents claim it undermines rights of accused

Key aspects of the law declare that the safety of victims and their families gets priority when judges set bail for the accused and that crime victims and their families receive information regarding the arrests and legal dealings of the victim’s assailant. Opponents, though, contend that Marsy’s Law may increase the possibility that judges will toss out exculpatory evidence – evidence favorable to the defendant.