North Carolina House Bill 551, introduced on April 6 in the NC House of Representatives, would expand the legal rights of crime victims.
This new bill is an NC version of a California bill that is being adopted by other states. Marsy’s Law, officially known as the California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, would protect and expand the legal rights of victims of crime to include 17 rights in the judicial process.
The bill was enacted by voters in California through the initiative process in November 2008. The passage of Marsy’s Law in California have inspired efforts to pass similar laws in Illinois, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, and now, North Carolina.
The 17 rights include but are not limited to, the right to legal standing, protection from the defendant, notification of all court proceedings, restitution, and granting parole boards far greater powers to deny inmates parole.
Marsy’s Law was initially introduced as legislation due to the death of Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, the sister of Henry Nicholas, the Chief Executive Officer of Broadcom Corporation.
“Simply put, victims in North Carolina deserve the respect and dignity to have at least the same rights as those who are accused and convicted of crime,” Bill co-sponsor Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) said, as quoted in a press release. “Our current language leaves gaps that unfortunately can mean an inconsistent process from county to county leaving victims and their families behind. This legislation will give victims a much-needed voice in the justice process, that is enforceable and consistent statewide.”
In 1983, Marsy, a University of California at Santa Barbara senior, was stalked and subsequently murdered by her ex boyfriend. Only seven days had passed when Marsy’s mother and brother visited a grocery store to go shopping, only to meet Marsy’s accused killer, newly released on bail.
Marsy’s convicted murderer, Kerry Conley, was tried by a Los Angeles jury and sentenced to life in prison with a small possibility of parole.
While Conley passed away in prison just a year before Marsy’s Law was passed in 2008, the Nicholas family was traumatized by the numerous parole hearings they had to attend.
“If any good can come of something this horrible- the loss of my sister and the losses of other families of crime victims- it is that these violent acts served as a catalyst for change,” Dr. Nicholas stated on the official Marsy’s Law website. “Marsy’s Law will provide for a more compassionate justice system for crime victims in California and make that a constitutional guarantee. Now the momentum can be put behind a United States Constitutional Amendment so that the rights of all crime victims, anywhere in America, can be protected.”
The North Carolinian version of Marsy’s Law is officially called House Bill 551, and was introduced by seven primary sponsors, including but not limited to Representative Nelson Dollar
and Senator Tamara Barringer (R-Wake).
There are no substantial differences between House Bill 551 and Marsy’s Law.
Neither Rep. Dollar and Sen. Barringer could be reached for independent comment.