Why I’m Voting NO on Georgia’s Amendment 4 – Marsy’s Law

Georgia has 5 Constitutional Amendments on the ballot this year and while I plan to vote NO on all five, the one I am most adamantly against is No. 4.

Amendment 4, known as Marsy’s Law, addresses rights of victims of crime. It is part of a national effort to add additional rights and privileges for victims of crime. It’s named after California college student Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, who was stalked and killed in 1983 by an ex-boyfriend. It is already codified in state statute.

The amendment allows, upon request, crime victims to have specific rights, including the right to be treated with “fairness, dignity, and respect;” the right to notice of all proceedings involving the alleged criminal; the right to be heard at any proceedings involving that release, plea, or sentencing of the accused; and the right to be informed of their rights. The amendment also explicitly stated that the legislature was able to further define, expand, and provide for the enforcement of the rights.

The measure has been approved by voters in California, Ohio, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, but not without effects. In 2018, voters in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma will consider versions of it.

The amendment will appear on the Georgia ballot as follows:

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?

Sounds heartwarming, but…that’s intentional from the powers that be. I’ll be voting NO and here’s why:

My reasons for voting NO are numbered but are in no particular order of importance.

  1. As proposed in the Constitutional Amendment, it deals with “alleged” perpetrators, not those already convicted of a crime. In some states, unintended consequences have resulted in problems of due process.Read this from The Gazette: “Marsy’s Law would interfere with a defendant’s Sixth Amendment due process rights, said John Piro, the chief deputy public defender for Nevada’s Clark County, by giving people harmed by a crime the right to be heard before the alleged perpetrator has pleaded innocent or guilty.”And in South Dakota, the approved Marsy’s Law has resulted in longer jail stays while courts wait for victims to be notified. Officials say it’s led to notification in even the simplest of crimes, like vandalism, and swamped staff with additional paperwork.
  2. It’s duplicative because it’s already state law. Joe Mulholland, a District Attorney in South Georgia, told his local paper that the amendment is technically already part of the law. “It’s already technically part of Georgia law, but the legislature felt like being a part of the constitution is even stronger. Having that and knowing its part of the constitution, I think it gives peace of mind to prosecutors.” Victims have the opportunity to opt-in to the notification process and be involved in the proceedings as much as they so choose under current law.
  3. It will bog down the legal process. The state of Illinois hasn’t seen a slow down in actual proceedings, but Lee Roupas, president of the Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association has said “There’s definitely an increase in administrative burden as far as notification goes.” since the state passed the measure in 2014. 
  4. Changing the State Constitution is serious business, something the ACLU opposes because it will leave no room for discretion or change without ANOTHER Constitutional Amendment.

    “We certainly believe that crime victims should be supported, but Marsy’s Law is really a one-size-fits-all, outsourced approach for how to support crime victims,” said Susanna Birdsong of the ACLU of North Carolina i
    n the News Observer, which is urging voters to reject the amendment. She says the change “leaves no legislative discretion to fill in the gaps or complete the picture,” tying the hands of state leaders from tweaking the process when needed.
  5. It will be expensive.

    Georgia has not released any documentation on the financial impact, but in North Carolina, where the measure is also on the ballot, the legislature’s nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division estimates Marsy’s Law could cost at least $11 million a year to fund.

    In South Dakota, lawmakers have worked to repeal the Constitutional Amendment earlier this year because of the high costs. KSFY ABC reported that “Marsy’s Law laid the ground work for a costly victims notification system, with a price tag of more than $100,000 dollars for Minnehaha County. It’s costing the state upwards of $5 million.”” Those same lawmakers say it has also hampered ongoing investigations and has caused confusion over what information can and cannot be released to the public and the media. Law enforcement officials have even said it hinders how the public assists with investigations.

    And Montana officials have said similar things: “Somebody steals a hair brush from Target department store, well is the corporation the victim? Does that mean that my office is obligated not to just talk to the clerk at Target who is victimized and the store manager, but do I have to talk to corporate council at wherever that corporation is headquartered,” Yellowstone County State’s Attorney Scott Twito said.  In addition, the Montana version of the law was never implemented because of a state Supreme Court challenge.
  6. It makes some people more equal under the law than others.  This Constitutional Amendment would actually provide more rights for victims than it would for anyone else under the law, including the accused which is only exacerbated by the fact that it will be in the Constitution.
  7. The group pushing Marsy’s Law is well-funded. It’s billionaire backed and millions of dollars are being funneled in to each state where the initiative is on the ballot, which is unusual for an initiative that would be for limited government. Henry Nicholas, the billionaire founder of semiconductor company Broadcom, is the brother of Marsy, who the bill is named after. With such intense ties to the cause, it’s no wonder the advocates are willing to see it passed at all costs, regardless of financial or justice system-related impact. He has spent $27 million, without counting funding in 6 states in 2018, to get the measure passed in various states.
  8. Because the group is well-funded, a number of television and social media ads have been sponsored and they’re using fear to tug at the heart strings of Georgians. I don’t want any initiative passed because of fear — and it’s an unprincipled approach to policy.

    The first one, released in late September, falsely implies that victims of crimes do not have equal rights under the Constitution, which is not true. You can watch it below.

COLUMN: TV Ad for Marsy’s Law Constitutional Amendment in Georgia is misleading

The second ad is available here:

 

This is more about recourse for victims than anything. The state law, which is already in place, that requires notification doesn’t have a pathway for victims to actually gain anything if the are not notified or something happens. This would allow for claims of a violation of their constitutional rights should the court system fail to notify them. It sounds nice, but I still feel strongly that this isn’t the intended purpose of our Constitution. It’s frightening that the end goal is to have the U.S. Constitution amended to include this, according to the Gazette in reporting on the backer.

Benita Dodd from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation also said in an article published on their website that “A constitutional amendment is no place to risk infringing the rights of someone accused of a crime. The accused have the presumption of innocence until convicted; their life and liberty are at stake. For many suffering victims and their surviving families, there’s a fine line between justice based on a court of law and vengeance based on the alleged wrongdoing.”

And I agree.

18
Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
11 Comment threads
7 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
10 Comment authors
ScottNAtlantaDave BearseNoParty4MeGregsbethebalance Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
Benevolus
Benevolus

I think I agree with you on this.
Sounds like it needs to be more narrowly/specifically defined, and it doesn’t need to be an amendment.

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Thanks for the in depth info. This gives me more reasons to vote no on this.

Will Durant
Will Durant

Well thought out. Well written. Thank you.

Prediction: It will pass anyway.

chamblee54
chamblee54

The first four to comment agree with the author. This may be a first.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Me agreeing with Sally…you could read a lot of things into that…world ending, or better explanation is its a REALLY bad amendment if everyone agrees

I'm the idiot who keeps duplicating Nicknames... mock me.
I'm the idiot who keeps duplicating Nicknames... mock me.

Has anyone provided a rationale for why this needs to be in constitution?

Will Durant
Will Durant

Jessica, I’m curious as to your reasons for your all no slate. Mine is similar. I already donate to the Georgia Conservancy and on the face of it #1 would be OK but it has no teeth so I don’t see the purpose other than as an election year environmental gesture thrown up there by a legislature that is only interested in appearances where the environment is concerned, and barely that. I’m concerned about the cost of a statewide business court, especially to the counties that can’t afford their current courts. Without the details being spelled out #2 is a… Read more »

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

I’ll vote NO on the ‘Concierge’ Business court. Why? The judges are appointed, not elected. No accountability to the citizen consumers. Big business campaign donors get to buy the officials that select the judges most likely to rule in their favor.

bethebalance
bethebalance

I think there is a good point to be raised about the appointment process- but there should be more specifics available to see how the appointment process works. Appointment of judges is not necessarily a bad thing, considering who judges have to raise money from for elections. In the currently operational business courts, the judges are “appointed” from existing elected judges or contracted “senior” judges. It is really just dedicated staff and clerk and a shifting of caseloads among already sitting judges. No issues if that’s the model. And, while it may be that most judges can figure out business… Read more »

Will Durant
Will Durant

Yes, they work for Fulton and Gwinnett. But statewide? Does Taliaferro County (pop. 1,717) need one? And again, if we already have them why do we need an amendment to the State Constitution?

bethebalance
bethebalance

I think it just authorizes counties to create one, doesn’t mandate them. If it mandates, then yeah, that’s dumb.
Why an Amendment? My first thought is that it looks good to businesses, especially ones who want to relocate. Hopefully there’s no new authorization to tax that’s involved.

NoParty4Me
NoParty4Me

Thanks BTB. I agree with some of your points. Here is a quote from the Resolution about the appointments. That is my problem, narrow political power makes the appointments. Easily corrupted. Thoughts? “(b) All state-wide business court judges shall serve a term of five years; provided, however, that the initial term of such judges shall be as provided by law. Such judges shall be appointed by the Governor, subject to approval by a majority vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a majority vote of the House Committee on Judiciary. Such judges may be reappointed for any number of consecutive… Read more »

bethebalance
bethebalance

I clicked through and read the bill. So it’s just one state-wide roaming business court.
Maybe it helps out a little here and there, but seems inefficient.

Sally Forth
Sally Forth

Excellent analysis, Jessica. I agree with you that not only #4, but none of the 5 proposed amendments to our state Constitution make sense. The 5 are already law, in the Georgia Code Annotated. It is frivolous and redundant to also put them into the Constitution. A state’s highest document should only be amended when there is something of such importance that there is no other way to address it.

I too will be voting “no” on all 5 amendments, even though Will is probably right.

Gregs
Gregs

I voted no on all but #5 which I can see a method for the madness. However, I don’t understand the politics that allowed this group of amendments. I believe most, if not all of them have bipartisan support.

voting-guide-to-the-ballot-questions-this-year/Content?oid=10482332&fbclid=IwAR2a7rykAG0HsN1

bethebalance
bethebalance

Thanks for the analysis, Jessica. I hadn’t started to research this issue yet, but this piece certainly helped. My starting point was that in my experience, I haven’t seen any issues with the way victim’s rights has been handled. The victim is already notified, given options, there’s dedicated staff… Perhaps California didn’t have sufficient victim protections in place before 1983? Since then, surely all states have upgraded anyways. I do understand the idea of making sure victims are notified and given a voice. But I’ve seen that happening without having to add extra burden. Perhaps there is more that can… Read more »

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

This post and commentary saved me time. Thanks.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

The world is coming to an end…I agree with Benita Dodd, or better to think that maybe there is hope in the world when you can agree with someone with whom you have little common ground.
OMG…I see I agree with Sally too…