As Crime Victims’ Rights Week approaches, what happened to Marsy’s Law?

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The week of April 18 is Crime Victims Rights Week, which got abc27 News wondering: Whatever happened to Marsy’s Law? It’s the constitutional amendment that would give victims and their families greater rights.

Pennsylvania voters overwhelming approved it, so why hasn’t it taken effect yet?

“The pain and loss is with us forever,” said Angela Parker-Quarles, a victims’ rights advocate.

It’s been 10 years since Parker-Quarles’ god-daughter was murdered. The anguish is still there over a lost loved one — and the system.

“We observed and heard all of the rights of the person who took her life. We heard everything he is afforded, the opportunity he has to be heard and we were afforded very little to nothing,” Parker-Quarles said.

It is a familiar story and gave rise to Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment approved by 74% of Pa. voters in 2019.

“Crime victims deserve a voice and at the heart of it, it comes down to do we value crime victims’ rights enough to elevate them to the Constitution?” Jennifer Riley, executive director of Marsy’s Law, said.

Voters said yes. The commonwealth court said no because lawmakers can only amend one part of the constitution at a time.

“It was asking voters to vote on too many different changes at once,” said Liz Randol, the legislative director for ACLU.

The ACLU objects to the process and the content arguing Marsy’s Law would infringe on the rights of suspects who, unlike victims, face the loss of liberty or life at the hands of the state.

“This has been framed a zero-sum game, that in order for crime victims to get rights, it somehow has to come out of the same pot of rights as those who are accused of those crimes,” Randol said.

The ACLU may win minds, but not hearts.

The side of the grieving victims feeling aggrieved is an easy winner in the sympathy battle.

“The victim is the only person in the courtroom that is, thereby, no choice of their own, they should have a say and a guaranteed voice in the system,” Riley said.

Marsy’s Law should be heard by the state Supreme Court later this year.

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