Proposed Constitutional Amendment would provide strengthened crime victims’ rights

Updated: Dec. 12, 2019 at 8:08 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -Crime victims go through unthinkable pain. And many describe the renewed pain that comes with the criminal justice process. The goal behind the push for Marsy’s Law in Mississippi, a Constitutional Amendment, is to put specific rights into the State Constitution for crime victims. Right now, there are protections in there for those accused and convicted but not them.

Several families are preparing their hearts for another Christmas without their loved one.

“I don’t really like talking about it," said Karen Williams whose nephew was killed in 2018. "I don’t even go to the grave site cause it’s kind of hard. It’s hard for me and my kids to still adapt to the situation that he’s not here anymore.”

The Attorney General’s office has a bureau of victim assistance that hosts this tree lighting each year to remember and honor the state’s crime victims. But one mom says she’d like to see more support.

“It’s as though once the crime has happened, the deceased is buried, we are forgotten," said Tonjula Shelby whose son was killed in 2017. "Their loved one is forgotten. It’s like you start bringing recognition to the criminal. What can you allow for them? What provisions should be made?”

Right across the street, at the State Capitol, some lawmakers will make a renewed push to change some of those issues in the new year. The statewide campaign for Marsy’s Law kicked off at the Neshoba County Fair this summer. It would strengthen existing crime victims’ rights.

“We have a law in Mississippi right now but as you know, laws can be changed," noted Speaker Philip Gunn. "A constitutional amendment makes this a higher priority.”

It would need 2/3 approval by both chambers before it could be placed on a ballot for you to decide. The campaign has a growing number of endorsements, including several elected officials like Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs.

“The victim ought to be a part of this all the way through the judicial process," said Flaggs. "I’m for fairness. I’m for dignity. I’m for respect for the victims as much as we do the criminal. I want them to have access to everything.”

Marsy’s Law is named after a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. A week after her murder, her family was confronted by the accused murderer. They had no idea he’d been released on bail.

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