Crime victims benefiting from new Oklahoma law


Oklahoma voters rejected four of the five state questions on the ballot last November. However, the one question that managed to earn voter support has the potential to do considerable good for victims of crime, as Attorney General Mike Hunter pointed out this week.

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The Oklahoman 

Crime victims benefiting from new Oklahoma law

October 25, 2019

Called “Marsy’s Law,” State Question 794 ensures that victims of crimes are, as the ballot language said, “protected in a manner equal to the defendant’s rights.”

SQ 794 was the product of a national effort stemming from the experience of Henry T. Nicholas III, co-founder of California-based Broadcom Corp. Nicholas’ sister, Marsy, was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend in 1983, and her family members later came across the killer in public after his arrest. They hadn’t been notified that he had been released.

In discussing the new law’s implementation, Hunter noted that the protections it provides “are profoundly important.”

“They ensure that victims of crime are informed of their rights, that they are notified of proceedings and developments in their cases, that they’re heard in court, and that they have input into the process and most importantly are treated with respect and dignity throughout criminal proceedings,” he said.

Those who pushed for passage of Marsy’s Law in Oklahoma argued that it would help level the playing field with criminal defendants who have specific constitutional rights.

Jan Peery, president and CEO of YWCA Oklahoma City, which runs a shelter for victims of domestic abuse, called Marsy’s Law “a great step forward.” Many victims, Peery says, “feel chewed up and spit out by our (judicial) systems and end up wishing they had never engaged in the process …”

In addition to giving crime victims the right to be notified of a defendant’s release or escape from custody, Marsy’s Law expands the court proceedings where a victim has the right to be heard, adds a right to reasonable protection, a right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay, and a right to talk with the prosecutor. Under this law, victims may refuse interview requests from the defendant’s attorney without a subpoena.

The law took effect upon approval of the state question. During the 2019 session, the Legislature approved a bill that updates existing state statutes to reflect the new constitutional rights established by Marsy’s Law.

Among other things, the legislation requires the website for the attorney general’s office to include a comprehensive set of rights under Marsy’s Law.

Hunter noted that officers responding to a reported crime must inform the victims of their rights in writing. When prosecutors pursue a case against an alleged criminal, victims are to be notified of their rights by the local district attorney.

These efforts represent “a true commitment to victims staying informed and empowered during what is often an overwhelming and complicated time in their lives,” Hunter said. Oklahoma voters deserve a nod for seeing the merit of Marsy's Law.