Voters should OK victims’ right to be heard

Published 10:23 am Thursday, February 1, 2018

Crime victims in the state of Kentucky have, for far too long, been nearly silenced by a system that doesn’t give them much of a voice.

But that could change when voters go the polls in November to weigh in on a proposed state constitutional amendment that would give crime victims equal constitutional protections, including the rights to be heard in all judicial proceedings, to be present for all hearings and to be made aware of hearings or changes in their offenders’ status such as release dates. Kentucky lawmakers recently passed legislation dubbed Marsy’s Law, named for Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

Kentucky voters will have the final say on the constitutional amendment and will be asked on the November ballot: “Are you in favor of providing constitutional rights to victims of crime, including the right to be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, and the right to be informed and to have a voice in the judicial process?” Kentucky is one of only 14 states that does not currently provide constitutional protections to crime victims.

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We encourage our readers to vote in favor of this landmark legislation that will finally recognize Kentucky crime victims as equals in the justice system.

For months after Krystallyn Morris was brutally sexually assaulted, she sat in the back of the courtroom during the multiple hearings leading up to her assailant’s guilty plea. During the sentencing hearing, she was finally able to have her voice heard.

In Kentucky, crime victims are permitted to give a victim impact statement only at their perpetrator’s sentencing hearing.

People who vote “yes” on the constitutional amendment would give victims and survivors like Morris a guarantee of having their voices heard throughout the judicial process.

“I would have loved to be able to speak out instead of sit back in the courtroom and listen,” Morris said. “In the courtroom setting, I would like the judge to be more understanding and see how this has impacted you up to this date, not just wait to the end. I want the judge to see this is what we’re going through at this time.”

“Everybody has a voice,” she said. “God gave voices for a reason, and we deserve to be heard.”

We agree.

Kentucky already has a strong victims’ bill of rights. However, adding those rights to the state’s constitution will guarantee people like Morris are given the opportunity to speak openly in court from the very first bond hearing to the final sentencing.

It’s time for Kentucky’s crime victims to move from the deafening silence of the back of the courtroom to the podium to be heard.

Bowling Green Daily News