By State Sen. John Sabatina Jr.
Pennsylvania is one of only nine states that does not have victims rights enshrined in its constitution. You can change that on Nov. 5.
In the last Senate session, I sponsored Marsy’s Law, which provides victims rights in our justice system. As a former assistant district attorney, I know full well the trauma victims and their loved ones are put through. Beyond their fear and immense grief, the criminal justice system is confusing and often frustrating.
Defendants get lawyers but victims must rely on the district attorney’s staff for information. That information should be honest and thorough. However, horror stories exist of victims finding out their assaulter is free by seeing them on the street. That’s unacceptable.
Marsy’s Law mandates district attorneys inform the victims of the status of the case. Additionally they will be invited to the proceedings, hear about any plea deal before it is offered to the defendant, and speak at sentencing. The victim will not have the right to veto a plea deal but if they are dissatisfied, they certainly have the opportunity to express that to the DA, to their elected representatives or to the media. It also opens the path for restitution.
The best aspect of the law is it enjoys wide bipartisan support. Polls show more than two-thirds of people are on board when they first hear of the concept. When people are more informed about the law, the support jumps to 87 percent.
For the state constitution to be amended, legislation must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before being added to the ballot for voter approval. Marsy’s Law passed unanimously in the state Senate and House. Now you get to decide.
On Nov. 5, vote “Yes” on Marsy’s Law. ••