Gov. Kim Reynolds and Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, along with victims’ rights advocates, law enforcement members, elected county officials and legislators, launched a campaign on Monday to place a constitutional amendment creating equal rights for victims on Iowa’s ballot.
Once passed by the legislature and approved by voters, the legislation – known as Marsy’s Law – would ensure crime victims and their families are provided the same constitutional rights as the accused. Iowa is one of only 15 states that does not currently constitutionally protect victims’ rights.
“The legislature has proven in the past that when it comes to protecting the safety and welfare of Iowans, they are able to put politics aside and do what’s in the best interest of the state,” Gov. Reynolds said. “This issue should be no different. All victims of crime deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”
The proposal has bipartisan support and is advancing in the Iowa House of Representatives and Senate. It provides victims with basic and enforceable rights, including:
- the right to be heard with notice of all proceedings;
- the right to be heard in any proceeding involving release, pleas, sentencing, deposition and parole;
- the right to reasonable protection from the accused;
- the right to reasonable notice of any release or escape of the convicted; and
- the right to restitution resulting from the financial impact of the crime.
“We’re thankful to the law enforcement community, attorneys and advocacy groups who strive for justice and support victims of crime,” Lt. Gov. Gregg said. “Unfortunately, their work alone is not enough to bring about equal rights for victims.”
The Marsy’s Law movement began in 1983 when Marsy Nichols of California was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother were confronted in a grocery store by the accused murderer. The family had no idea he had been released on bail.
“I have heard gut-wrenching stories from victims who feel that the rights of their perpetrator were greater than theirs,” Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Marion) said. “We must do all we can to preserve defendants’ rights, while at the same time ensure victims have equally protected rights.”
Both bills, Senate Study Bill 3040 and House Joint Resolution 2003, await consideration from the judiciary committees.