Governor Rick Scott today announced his support of Marsy’s Law for Florida – a measure which would provide crime victims and their families with rights and protections equal to those already afforded the accused and convicted. Currently under consideration by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission as Proposal 96, Marsy’s Law for Florida would embed a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights into the Florida Constitution.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Today, I am proud to announce my support of Marsy’s Law, which will amend the state constitution to ensure crime victims and their families are treated fairly in Florida. Florida stands with victims – we have taken important steps in our state to protect those who need it most, and we must continue to do that in the future.”
Criminals and those accused of crimes have 20 distinct rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Victims and their families are provided no rights under the U.S. Constitution. Most states have addressed this disparity by adding victims’ rights and protections into their state constitutions. Florida is one of only 15 states that does not provide clear, enforceable rights for victims of crimes in its constitution.
“As a husband still grieving the tragic murder of my wife, I commend Governor Rick Scott’s support of constitutional protections for crime victims and their families through Constitution Revision Commission Proposal 96, Marsy’s Law,” said Michael Liles, executive director of the Justice Coalition. “My wife’s murderer has more rights in the criminal justice process than myself or my children. As we fight for basic privileges such as the right to be notified of court hearings and the right to provide a victim impact statement without Judicial editing or review, I am thankful our state leaders are fighting with us to ensure the scales of justice are equal for both the victim and the accused. It is important to note that we are seeking equal rights not superior ones. As victims, we have paid the dearest price for the impact of crime. It is only fair and reasonable that we receive equal consideration.”
Marsy’s Law for Florida would provide victims: the right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case; the right to receive timely notification if the offender is being released from custody; the right to be present at court proceedings and provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized; the right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any processes that might result in the offender’s release; and the right to restitution.
One of the most important rights Marsy’s Law for Florida would provide to victims is the right to choose whether or not to participate in a deposition by the defense. The federal government and 45 other states do not allow victim depositions. Only in Florida, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Vermont are victims required to let the defense depose them. In Texas, the defense can take a victim deposition, but only if they get court approval first.
“At age 11, I clearly never asked to be a victim of sexual abuse – but during my deposition, the defense repeatedly asked me if I wanted it, and insinuated that I, a child, had been complicit in the six years of abuse I ultimately endured. Vulnerable crime victims should never be treated with such blatant disrespect as they bravely pursue justice, yet this happens almost daily in Florida,” said Senator Lauren Book. “Crime victims deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion. I applaud Governor Rick Scott’s commitment to Florida crime victims through his support of Marsy’s Law for Florida, which would bring fairness and humanity to the criminal justice system. This is the right step for Florida.”
Six other states have enacted Marsy’s Law, including California, Illinois, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Montana. Polling conducted in October showed there is strong interest among Florida voters to enact Marsy’s Law in the Sunshine State. Eighty-seven percent of likely Florida voters believe victims should have, at the very least, the same protections in the state constitution as those given to those accused of committing crimes. When read specific ballot language and informed of the background behind Marsy’s Law, 85 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for a constitutional amendment that guarantees victims’ rights in the Florida Constitution.
“As a survivor of incest and sex trafficking, I know what it is like to feel invisible, to have nobody to go to. I know what it is like to have my voice stripped from me. It is a very powerful thing when you find your voice and I’m proud to work with other victims of sex trafficking to help them find their voices. We need a system that supports victims, encourages them to use their voices and to tell their stories in a safe zone,” said Connie Rose. “My deepest gratitude to Governor Scott and all the other state leaders who have stepped forward and called for real rights and protections for victims.”
If passed by the CRC, Marsy’s Law for Florida would be placed on the 2018 General Election ballot as a constitutional amendment. The proposal must be approved by 60 percent of voters to be placed in the Florida Constitution.
“I am honored to sponsor Marsy’s Law and I want to thank Governor Scott for his support today,” said Tim Cerio, CRC member and sponsor of Proposal 96/Marsy’s Law for Florida. “With Governor Scott’s support, and the support of the public in November, we will give crime victims the same constitutional standing as those accused and convicted of crimes. Victims’ voices will no longer be ignored.”
About Marsy’s Law
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.