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Republicans seek to expand victims’ rights with constitutional amendment

Republican efforts to expand the rights of crime victims outlined in the Tennessee Constitution advanced in the House last week.

House Joint Resolution 94, also known as Marsy’s Law, proposes a constitutional amendment that would add more than a dozen specific rights crime victims have in the state. The legislation must pass two separate General Assemblies and be approved by a majority of Tennessee voters in order to take effect. 

“No criminal should have more rights than the victim, and Marsy’s Law simply will ensure that won’t happen,” said bill sponsor State Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain. “The whole purpose… is to make sure we treat our victims as well as we treat those who are convicted or accused of a crime.”

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Among the victims’ rights that would be enshrined in the state’s constitution include the right to be notified of all public criminal proceedings involving the accused; the right to be present and heard in court; the right to be free from harassment, intimidation and abuse throughout the process; and the right to receive reasonable notice of any release, transfer, or escape of the accused or convicted person. 

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Marsy’s family was unaware that her murderer had been released on bail until they were confronted by him at a market one week after her death. House Joint Resolution 94 is scheduled to be heard in the Criminal Justice Committee on March 7.

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