Legislative Update from State Senator Joey Hensley: Remembrance of Victims

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   Christmas is a very special time of the year. This year, however, will be more difficult for many of our friends and neighbors due to the effects of COVID-19. It is a good time for us to remember the holiday spirit and lend our time and resources to help Tennesseans who are suffering due to income loss. Many of our local charities and food pantries are great ways for us to share the true spirit of Christmas with those who need help during these difficult times. 

   The holiday season is also extremely difficult for those who have lost loved ones. We certainly want to remember them in our thoughts and prayers as Christmas can be especially difficult for them. This includes those who have suffered losses due to homicide. 

   Each year at our State Capitol, families gather to place ornaments on memorial wreaths in honor of their loved ones which are displayed throughout the holiday season. The event, called “Tennessee Season to Remember,” was held virtually earlier this month due to COVID-19. Victim’s family members tuned in statewide as hundreds of murder victims names were called in remembrance. It is a chilling reminder of the heartbreak many Tennessee families suffer due to violent crime.

   I certainly stand with these victims. That is why I am supporting a new Constitutional Amendment titled “Marsy’s Law” that was introduced during the 2020 legislative session and which will come before our legislature again next session. This law was named after Marsalee Ann Nicholas, a University of California Santa Barbara student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her murder, Marsy’s family stopped at a market. It was there, in the checkout line, that Marsy’s mother, Marcella, was confronted by her daughter’s murderer. Having received no notification from the judicial system, the family had no idea he had been released on bail mere days after Marsy’s murder.

   Marsy’s Law is an initiative that began in California. Passed in November 2008, Proposition 9, The California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law, became the strongest and most comprehensive Constitutional victims’ rights laws in the U.S. and put California at the forefront of the national victims’ rights movement.

   Marsy’s law seeks to give crime victims constitutional rights equal to those rights that are in place for the accused. Some examples of those are:

•To be treated with dignity and respect throughout criminal justice proceedings

•To be notified of his, her or their rights as a victim of crime

•To be notified of specific public proceedings throughout the criminal justice process and to be present and heard during those proceedings

   This has become a national movement that has been approved by voters in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Currently, efforts are underway in Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. I am happy to support this movement and I look forward to seeing it implemented in the State of Tennessee.