Madison, Wisconsin – Today, chairmen of the committees considering Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin’s bipartisan legislation announced that they will hold a hearing on the proposal to ensure equal rights for crime victims on Thursday, June 15. State legislators will hear testimony from bill sponsors and supporters of updating the state Constitution in a joint hearing of the State Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and the State Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.
“We know Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is the right thing to do because we see what victims of crime face in our communities. Making victims’ rights equal to those of the accused is crucial to keeping Wisconsin safe,” the bill’s sponsors, State Sen. Van Wanggaard, Chairman of the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, and State Rep. Todd Novak, a key member of the Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, said in a joint statement. “This hearing will provide an opportunity to make clear to our fellow lawmakers what our bipartisan legislation would do to guarantee victims of crime and build on our state’s proud tradition.”
Wanggaard and State Rep. John Spiros, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety, said the hearing will be at 9:30 a.m. in room 411 South at the State Capitol.
Since first unveiling its legislation April 4, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin has been co-sponsored by 40 Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature, in addition to Wanggaard and Novak. Domestic abuse survivor Teri Jendusa-Nicolai recently shared her story to show the need for the legislation, and recent polling showed that nearly 80 percent of Wisconsinites support updating our Constitution to ensure equal rights.
Below are key facts on Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin’s bipartisan legislation:
· Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin follows a proud tradition in our state of protecting victims’ rights, unlike many other states. 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. This means the changes we are proposing are about making sure victims’ rights are truly equal alongside the constitutional rights of the accused – nothing more, nothing less – not introducing new rights as has been done in other states across the country.
· Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin strengthens rights that already exist in Wisconsin. 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 put victim restitution payments ahead of any dollars owed to the government. An example of a current constitutional right that needs clarification is the right to be heard throughout the legal process, including release, plea, sentencing, disposition, parole, revocation, expungement, or pardon – as opposed to just disposition.
· Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin has the support of a broad and growing coalition of victims’ rights groups, law enforcement, attorneys, survivors, and members of local communities across the state. Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin’s growing statewide coalition includes victims’ rights groups like Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee, and Golden House in Green Bay; Attorney General Brad Schimel and District Attorneys across the state; and law enforcement including the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, The Wisconsin State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police, The Wisconsin Troopers’ Association, the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, The Badger State Sheriffs’ Association, Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association, the Milwaukee Police Association, and dozens of local sheriffs such as Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling, and Brown County Sheriff John Gossage.
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.