Until an ex-boyfriend stalked her and shot her to death in 1983.
Just one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother were confronted at the grocery store by the man accused of murdering her. The family had no idea, as they returned from Marsy’s grave, that the accused had been set free on bail.
Her brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, began a campaign to bring a Victims’ Bill of Rights to California. In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 9, commonly known as Marsy’s Law – the strongest and most comprehensive constitutional victims’ rights law in the United States.
Marsy’s brother wants to do the same for Wisconsin crime victims.
On Tuesday morning, Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin will unveil a statewide proposal to update Wisconsin’s state constitution to ensure equal rights for crime victims. The announcement at the State Capitol comes during National Crime Victims Week.
Victims of crime and crime advocates will join Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, state Sen. Van Wanggaard, state Rep. Todd Novak for the announcement.
Christina Traub, of Madison, shares her story about being strangled and battered by her boyfriend at the time.
“Every time I went into a courtroom it just felt like I was pushed to the background,” she recalled. “Everybody can name a criminal’s basic rights but when asked what rights a victim has I don’t even think anybody would be able to say what those are … That’s why Marsy’s Law is so important.”
“Currently in the United States, the U.S. Constitution and every state constitution has enumerated rights for individuals accused of a crime and those convicted of a crime. Yet, the U.S. Constitution and 15 state constitutions do not extend enumerated rights to victims of crime,” notes Marsy’s Law website.
“Marsy’s Law for All seeks to amend state constitutions that don’t offer protections to crime victims and, eventually, the U.S. Constitution to give victims of crime rights equal to those already afforded to the accused and convicted.”
The laws generally require victims to be informed and heard before criminals can be paroled.
Wisconsin has been a national leader in recognizing victims’ rights.
In 1980, the Badger State became the the first state to create a crime victims bill of rights. Thirteen years later, Wisconsin voters ratified a constitutional amendment creating constitutional recognition of victims’ rights.
What Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin advocates are seeking is an amendment that creates equal and enumerated rights for victims in the state’s constitution.
“We appreciate the leadership of Attorney General Brad Schimel and look forward to working with Sen. Wanggaard and Rep. Novak to keep Wisconsin on the forefront of this issue,” said spokesman Brian Reisinger. “We’ve worked closely with victims, victim advocates, law enforcement, and others to draft a unique Wisconsin solution that will ensure equal rights for crime victims.”
The national campaign has attracted some star power.
Actor Kelsey Grammer has become a vocal supporter of the national effort, a spokesman for the cause. Grammer, who appeared in ads last year promoting South Dakota’s Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment (approved by voters in November), is a violent crime victim twice over. His father was shot and killed in his home at the age of 38. Six years later, Grammer’s sister was brutally raped and murdered when she was 18.
When his father’s killer was released from prison, the family was never notified, according to the Marsy’s Law website.
“I found out through the National Inquirer. It seemed like a cruel joke,” Grammer, known for his role as psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane on the NBC sitcoms Cheers and Frasier, said in the South Dakota ad. The killer of Grammer’s sister, Karen, remains in prison and Grammer has fought his efforts for parole.
M.D. Kittle is bureau chief for Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him [email protected]