COMMENTARY

Victims of crime still counting on you, Kentucky

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In 2018, the General Assembly and Kentucky voters demonstrated their strong support for crime victims when they overwhelmingly adopted the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment. Their intent was as clear as their message: “You deserve better, we support you, and your voice matters.” Victims were able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing they would finally be afforded the same level of constitutional protections as the accused and convicted.


But their hopes were soon dashed by a last-minute legal challenge—not on the merits of Marsy’s Law, but on a mere technicality—prompting a Supreme Court ruling which ignored more than a hundred years of established legal precedent. And with that, victims were once again left behind by the very system put in place to protect them.


Kentucky crime victims now need your help once again.


As we kick off the 2020 legislative session, I am proud to again champion Marsy’s Law in the Kentucky General Assembly. The journey to adopt this important constitutional amendment began several years ago, and while the calendar may have changed, the need remains the same: Kentucky crime victims deserve constitutional rights.


In fact, because the need remains the same, the substance of the 2020 legislation mirrors what was passed in 2018, and includes just one new provision to ensure victims have the right to be heard and notified in the consideration of any pardon, commutation of sentence or granting of a reprieve.


It is important to understand that Kentucky’s Supreme Court made no ruling on the substance of Marsy’s Law. And, despite the setback, the energy behind Marsy’s Law remains strong with victim advocates, notable organizations, and my fellow legislators from across the commonwealth. I am committed to passing this important constitutional amendment again, in keeping with the Court’s ruling, so that the voters will have their say.


Simply put, we need Marsy’s Law in Kentucky because it would finally give victims of crime a constitutionally protected right to be notified, be heard, and be present at key court proceedings without infringing upon the rights of the accused and convicted.


Throughout my time as both a prosecutor and a legislator, I have spoken to many people who have been hurt by the imbalance our current system allows. Their stories of fear, loss, and pain are heartbreaking. But we have an opportunity before us once again to correct this imbalance of justice and ensure victims are provided the rights they deserve. 


During my tenure as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I have proudly championed many meaningful efforts, including criminal justice reform, drug abuse care and prevention, and protections for dating violence victims. I have advocated for the people of Kentucky through legislation to address these matters, not because they are partisan in nature, but because they are issues that matter to all Kentuckians. Honoring the rights of crime victims is no different. Marsy’s Law is a bipartisan, common-sense effort to help victims of crime achieve the justice they deserve.


I am excited and thankful to be part of the effort to bring Marsy’s Law to Kentucky. And I know that with the energy behind it we will succeed in 2020. I urge you to join in this fight for crime victims once again.  



WHITNEY WESTERFIELD is a state senator from Hopkinsville.

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