The effort to pass State Question 794 is a people-powered movement. We are relying on a grassroots network that includes victims of crime and their families, victim advocates, law enforcement personnel, elected officials, and many others. All of us are united by our belief that crime victims deserve Constitutionally protected rights as outlined in Marsy’s Law.
Getting the word out is an all-hands-on-deck effort, but even little things can go a long way towards educating our fellow Oklahomans about the need to support SQ 794. Kelly Vierling, whose son was shot and killed at a party, is showing her support by putting a Marsy’s Law sign up in her yard. Angie Cantrell, who also lost her son to violent crime, is taking signs and other materials down to her hometown of Sulphur. And, of course, we are lucky to have great interns and volunteers hard at work to package up and deliver materials across the state.
If you believe that our criminal justice system must be amended to give victims of crime like Kelly and Angie more rights and more support, then we encourage you to sign up as a volunteer and get involved. Something as simple as putting a bumper sticker on your car, displaying a placard in your business window, or putting out a yard sign can send a powerful message to your friends and family. Enough small acts in support of victims’ rights will eventually add up to a big victory: the passage of State Question 794 in November.
This week we had the opportunity to speak with Tulsa voters at a town hall meeting held by City Councilor Connie Dodson about how SQ 794 would improve the rights of crime victims. Attendees expressed their support at the meeting, which was followed by a recent endorsement by the Tulsa City Council to unanimously support SQ 794.
Kim Moyer, Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma State Director, noted to members in the audience that "someone accused of a crime receives Miranda Rights, but victims and their families aren’t even consistently notified of hearings.”
Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to guarantee certain rights for victims, survivors, and their families or guardians. If 794 passes, there will be a requirement to notify victims and families that they have Constitutionally protected rights. They will be notified at each important stage of the criminal justice process: arrest, bonding, trial, and sentencing. They would also be notified of the defendant’s release or escape from custody, and be consulted with before a decision is made concerning a plea agreement, deferred prosecution agreement or diversion agreement.
"We believe that victims deserve to have constitutional protections, just as those who are accused and convicted,” she added.
You can view the full list of proposed victims’ rights and pledge your support here.
In honor of Independence Day, we remember the sacrifice many made to ensure the United States became an independent nation. This week, we showed our appreciation to law enforcement community for their ongoing commitment to protect and serve our country.
While many are enjoying parades, fireworks, barbecues, and family gatherings this week, please remember those who are keeping us safe.
In addition to the support of the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police and Oklahoma Sheriffs Association, 41 law enforcement officials have endorsed State Question 794 because it levels the playing field for crime victims without impacting the rights of the accused. A vote yes on SQ 794 is a vote for victims because it would elevate existing statutes to give important new rights to people affected by crime.
This week we took a moment to honor a few of our supporters. Pictured below are Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton and Major Coy Jenkins and Canadian County Sheriff Chris West and his staff.
The Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma team has been hard at work recruiting support across the state to expand victims’ rights. We have recently met with elected officials, district attorney staff, crime victim advocates, non-profit leaders and community activists to discuss SQ 794. We joined Juneteenth celebrations, potluck dinners and recently spoke at the Oklahoma State Trooper Association state meeting and to faith leaders at the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.
We appreciate the strong sense of community in Oklahoma, and are grateful to those who remain committed to helping people who have suffered the most. Your continued support will ensure that crime victims and their families are provided permanent, enforceable rights.
Here are a few recent photos from our community events. If you are interested in joining as a volunteer, please consider signing up!
As November approaches, it’s important to know what State Question 794 does and what it does not do.
SQ 794 would amend the Oklahoma Constitution to guarantee certain rights for victims, survivors, and their families or guardians. We believe victims deserve to have the same protections as those who are accused and convicted. While victims currently enjoy some statutory legal protections, this would expand on those and elevate them to the constitutional level.
For example, consider the case of Leesa Sparks, who, after being kidnapped and tortured for days, was not even informed when most of the charges were dropped on her attacker. Or the case of Kelly Vierling, who was told she could not testify or express any emotion when her son’s killer was put on trial and eventually sentenced to less than six months in prison. Or the case of Sheri Farmer, who was not informed by either the Girl Scouts or law enforcement that her daughter had been murdered on an overnight trip, and heard it instead from a member of her community.
What SQ 794 does not do is change existing defendants’ rights. Marsy’s Law will not infringe in any way upon any existing rights for the accused.
More background on Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma can be found here.
Thanks for your continued support!
Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma believes that connecting with our communities is among the most important things we do. That’s why we’re proud to have the support of several County Commissioners across Oklahoma. In addition to preserving local infrastructure, commissioners also work with members of law enforcement to keep communities safe.
“As County Commissioners we are committed to ensuring justice and improving the health and well-being of our counties,” said Dillon Berry, Dewey County Commissioner. “Expanding rights for crime victims through approval of State Question 794 will make our communities safer.”
Every day, Oklahomans become victims of crime. They’re often left alone to navigate a complex judicial system without the same Constitutional and legal protections that the accused are afforded. State Question 794 would provide permanent and enforceable rights for victims.
This week, the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners proclaimed its support for SQ 794 adding to a growing list of supporters.
“Victims’ Rights is a non-partisan, non-political issue, and Marsy’s Law is a common sense approach to treating victims with fairness and respect,” said Ray Vaughn, Oklahoma County Commissioner.
SQ 794 enjoys bipartisan support because we can all agree that no rapist should have more rights than the victim. No murderer should be afforded more rights than the victim’s family. Local and state officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, are unified in their support of this issue.
We’re proud to have the support of Dillon Berry, Dewey County; Rod Cleveland, Cleveland County; Karen Keith and Ron Peters, Tulsa County; Ray Vaughn and Brian Maughan, Oklahoma County. Additionally, David Perry, formerly the McClain County Commissioner, has also endorsed SQ 794.
“Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma will ultimately improve the lives of our constituents,” Berry added.
If you are interested in supporting the cause, please add your name here.
Scott Mitchell, analyst for Oklahoma City’s News9, launched a podcast series called Forgotten Voices. According to Scott, the series will highlight important stories of victims of crimes “in their own words”. He added the series purpose is “to bypass the media filter and let victims and victims’ advocates speak directly to Oklahomans. “
We appreciate Scott’s commitment to telling these stories and his candor on the struggle crime victims face. Every day, Oklahomans suffer at the hands of criminals. Then they suffer again while navigating a complex judicial system and court process. They don’t benefit from the same Constitution and legal protections that criminals are provided. Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma SQ 794 would secure permanent, enforceable rights for victims.
Marsy’s Law is proud to be a sponsor of this series because we believe that by highlighting unfiltered and real-world examples; together, we can restore balance and fairness to our criminal justice system.
The series will debut new stories bi-weekly and runs through the summer of 2018. You can listen here.
The Oklahoma Legislature adjourned three weeks ahead of schedule this year, closing out their work on May 3, 2018, but support for Marsy’s Law remains strong.
We have enjoyed overwhelming bipartisan support for State Question 794, which seeks to provide Constitutional rights and protections to crime victims and restore balance and fairness to our criminal justice system. In 2017, Oklahoma lawmakers passed a resolution to send SQ 794 to a vote of the people in November 2018. Senate Joint Resolution 46 received unanimous support in the House with a vote of 88-0, and the Senate supported the measure 43-2.
As we close in on the November vote, dozens of lawmakers are renewing their commitment to Marsy’s Law and SQ 794. Both Democrats and Republicans have pledged their support because standing up for victims isn’t a partisan issue. Everyone can agree that giving victims the same rights as accused criminals is the right thing to do.
Every day, people are impacted by crime in Oklahoma. Although the severity of crimes range from white collar crimes to violent acts, every story matters in demonstrating the need to provide Constitutional protections to victims and their families and ensuring they have a voice in the criminal justice system. Your voice matters a great deal in helping tell the story that our criminal justice system is set up to protect the rights of the accused criminal, not the rights of the victim.
Since we launched Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma to push to pass State Question 794 in November, we’ve heard from many crime victims, law enforcement agents and advocates about their experiences with the criminal justice system and the need for Constitutionally protected victims’ rights in Oklahoma.
If you have a story to tell, we’d be honored if you would share it with us.
Below, Marsy’s Law Political Director Jill Shero talks with Marsy’s Law supporters at a recent luncheon to honor crime victims.