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"Marsy's Law" has significantly improved victims' rights, Henry Nicholas tells rally

Initiative co-author and sponsor cites dramatic results since the California constitutional amendment passed in 2008

Riverside, CA—April 25, 2010—Henry Nicholas, co-author and sponsor of Marsy’s Law, told 2,000 rallying supporters of crime victims’ rights that the California Constitutional Amendment, in its first year on the books, has had a major impact on the state’s judicial system.

Nicholas recounted the anguish of watching his sister, Marsy, die of gunshot wounds 26 years ago at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. And he described the lack of rights that he and his mother, Marcella Leach, experienced as the case wound through the legal system. This changed on November 4, 2008, when California voters passed Marsy’s Law, which became the nation’s most comprehensive victims’ bill of rights.

“Today, victims’ families in California are spared what my mother, and countless others, were forced to endure,” Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, told the crowd on Thursday outside the offices of Riverside District Attorney Rod Pacheco, who organized the event. “I know my sister is smiling down from heaven, at peace with the knowledge that her horrific tragedy is changing for the better the lives of so many Californians.”

As a result of Marsy’s Law, victims now have legal standing and the right to be represented in court. They now have a voice in all legal proceedings and can demand to be notified of all developments in their case. These mark important changes in a system that until now put the rights of criminals over those of victims, Nicholas said.

One of the most important results of Marsy’s Law has been to dramatically increase the length of parole denials. Before Marsy’s Law, the maximum parole denial was five years for convicted murderers and two years for all other crimes. Now parole denials can be imposed for 7, 10 and even 15 years. Nicholas cited statistics showing that last year 20% or 656 inmates received parole denials of 7 years or more. In 2009, only 3.5% received denials of two years or less.

Nicholas cited other evidence of Marsy’s Law’s impact:

  • In January over 100 attorneys received training at UC Irvine’s new law school on how to represent victims during long and often traumatic criminal proceedings.
  • The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals relied on Marsy’s Law to overturn a federal court decision that parolees need attorneys present at their parole revocation hearings.
  • A Superior Court Judge cited Marsy’s Law in declaring a mistrial in an elder abuse case because the victim had been denied due process.
  • Marsy’s Law has been the basis of two major lawsuits challenging the early release of prison inmates in California.

Still, Nicholas warned of a long fight ahead.

“We must train lawyers. We must educate judges. We must keep violent criminals out of our neighborhoods,” he said. “Once we have achieved this milestone, we must take our movement to the next level by enacting a federal Constitutional Amendment—the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution—which will protect victims’ rights everywhere across this great nation. “

Dist. Atty. Pacheco moderated the annual victims’ rights program, which this year included former NFL great Kermit Alexander, whose family was gunned down in 1984 by gang members; victims’ rights advocate and legal expert Steve Twist; and Mike Reynolds, who was instrumental in creating California’s Three Strikes Law after his daughter was murdered.

About Marsy’s Law For All

Marsy’s Law For All is focused on expanding the constitutional rights of crime victims, supporting the use of new technologies to help organizations, and formally training lawyers to represent crime victims in court, through the National Crime Victims Law Institute. Its new Web site, www.MarsysLawForAll.org, aims to enable the victims' rights movement to reach new members and promote the eventual passage of a U.S. Constitutional Amendment.

A compilation of recent news coverage on the growing victim's rights movement - including press coverage of Henry Nicholas' speech at the Los Angeles victim's rights memorial event last week and interview with the Orange County Register - are available at www.MarsysLawForAll.org.