Effort to update state Constitution follows passage of original constitutional amendment in 1993, proud history on victims’ rights in Wisconsin
[Madison, Wis.] – Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin today unveiled a statewide campaign to update Wisconsin’s Constitution to ensure equal rights for victims of crime. The announcement on the new constitutional amendment during National Crime Victims Week – made as part of a statewide tour with Attorney General Brad Schimel, legislators, survivors of violent crime, victim advocates, and law enforcement – accompanied a statewide digital and billboard advertising campaign raising awareness of victims’ rights.
The legislation is being authored by State Sen. Van Wanggaard and State Rep. Todd Novak. The bill began circulating for co-sponsorship on Tuesday.
Watch Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin’s first digital ad here. The ad launched ahead of press conferences in Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay, at which the Attorney General and other allies of the Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin coalition discussed our state’s history of leading on victims’ rights, as well as the need to update the Constitution to ensure that victims’ rights are equal to those of the accused.
Attorney General Brad Schimel said: “We have a proud tradition of standing up for the rights of crime victims in our state and the most compassionate and dedicated people in the country doing that hard work every day – but in Wisconsin we always move forward, and it’s time to do so now. This constitutional amendment will update our Constitution to ensure equal rights for crime victims that are clear, enforceable, and permanent. It’s time we get to work.”
State Sen. Van Wanggaard, the bill’s State Senate sponsor, said: “As a former law enforcement officer, I know first-hand the effects of crime on our communities and the impacted victims. Our focus needs to be on caring for and protecting those victims, not coddling criminals. I’m proud of Wisconsin’s history on victims’ rights, and even prouder to stand up today to make sure those rights are truly equal.”
State Rep. Todd Novak, the bill’s State Assembly sponsor, said: “As someone who resides in a small town, Marsy’s Law can make the difference between a victim feeling safe and seeing their attacker at the gas station. Victims of crime deserve equal rights. Our proposal to include their rights in the Constitution will give them a permanent guarantee.”
Teri Jendusa-Nicolai, a survivor of violent crime and advocate for victims’ rights, said: “Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is about evening the playing field and giving victims the equal rights they deserve. I’ve seen firsthand the strong rights of those who have been accused of crimes, and I’ve experienced what it’s like to be a victim not only of violent crime but also of a legal system that can be terrifying and painful – despite the efforts of our hard-working law enforcement and victim advocates.”
Marsy’s Law efforts in other states have received broad, nearly unanimous bipartisan support. Others who appeared with Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin in support of this effort at events across the state included: Representatives of the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee; Ian Henderson, Associate Director of Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Karen Michaels, Executive Director of Golden House in Green Bay; Manitowoc County District Attorney Jacalyn LaBre; Brown County District Attorney David Lasee; Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling; Brown County Sheriff John Gossage; and Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
You can read Teri’s story of survival here, and find facts on today’s proposal below:
· Wisconsin already has a constitutional amendment on victims’ rights that passed in 1993, and was the first state in the nation to pass a Crime Victims Bill of Rights. The state also is recognized as having some of the strongest statutory rights for victims in the country. The proposed amendment would do two things: Elevate certain rights currently under state statute to be fully constitutional rights, and strengthen other rights that are already part of the Constitution.
· An example of a right that is the law under state statute but needs to be elevated to the Constitution is the right to legal standing, allowing a victim to assert any of his or her rights in court. An example of a current constitutional right that needs clarification is the right to be heard throughout the legal process.
· In order to amend the state Constitution, the proposal must pass two consecutive state Legislatures, then be put to the voters on the ballot. It is currently possible for Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin’s proposal to be on the ballot in 2019.
· In addition to the legislative effort announced today, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin has launched a statewide advertising campaign. This includes the statewide digital ad, other digital advertising, and billboards raising awareness in local communities. The billboards read “Support Equal Rights for Wisconsin’s Crime Victims. Support Marsy’s Law.”
About Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin
Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is a grassroots coalition that has developed a unique proposal to give victims of crime equal rights in our state, building on Wisconsin’s laws and history of leading on this issue. 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 has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights.
Victims and supporters interested in sharing their stories can email Wisconsin@marsyslaw.us.