Trio of Victims’ Rights Measures Clear House
OKLAHOMA CITY – Three bills aimed at protecting victims of crimes passed off the House floor today and now head to the Senate for consideration.
House Joint Resolution 1002, known as “Marsy’s Law” and authored by state Rep. Scott Biggs, would place a question on the November ballot to allow citizens to vote to amend the state Constitution to ensure that crime victims and their families are provided with the same level of equal, or “co-equal,” constitutional rights as those afforded and guaranteed to the accused or convicted.
Marsy’s Law has been passed in five other states and is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983
“Victims in Oklahoma have statutory rights, but those rights are trumped by the defendant’s Constitutional rights and are often ignored by some judges,” said Biggs, R-Chickasha, chair of the House Judiciary Committee on Criminal Justice and Corrections. “This bill elevates the rights of victims and their families so that courts have to protect them.”
HJR 1002 passed by a vote of 90-5.
House Bill 1116, by state Rep. Mike Sanders, would allow statements alleging abuse, neglect or financial exploitation made by an incapacitated or vulnerable person to be admitted as evidence in a criminal or juvenile proceeding if the court found the statements to be reliable. The bill requires the adverse party to be notified of intention to offer the statements at least 10 days in advance of the proceedings.
“This bill is an effort to ensure that vulnerable and incapacitated victims can have their statements heard in court,” said Sanders, R-Kingfisher. “Current law prevents that, effectively silencing our most helpless victims while protecting their perpetrators, which I find simply illogical.”
House Bill 1116 passed by a vote of 76-17.
House Bill 1466, by state Rep. Elise Hall, would create a procedure to allow the victim of domestic violence to transfer wireless telephone and utility accounts to their name when the account was previously in the name of another. The bill would require a court order containing relevant information to be sent to the wireless service provider or public utility to transfer the account.
“Victims of domestic violence are at risk of losing their support network when their abuser is the person who controls the cell phone accounts,” said Rep. Hall, R-Oklahoma City. “Abusers who are the primary account holders will often refuse to release the account to their victims, and often will monitor their victim’s calls, track them with GPS installed on the phone or close the account altogether to get back at the victim. This bill is aimed at protecting victims and giving them a sense of comfort knowing that they can prevent their phones and their utilities from being controlled by their abusers.”
House Bill 1466 passed on the House floor by a vote of 86-0.
All three bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
Additional quotes from victims on Marsy’s Law:
Kelly Vierling from Payne County, whose son was shot and killed during a party:
“The unanimous vote in support of Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma gave me more hope in our system than I have experienced in the last 26 months. Victims matter, and somehow we have to find a way to give them a voice in their journey through the criminal justice system. The system tends to rest on believing the only person fighting for their lives and well-being is the accused, giving no weight to what it takes for a victim to carry on and find a way to even begin to resemble the person they once were.”
Tina Jones from Grady County, who was abused in some way by her ex-husband every day for 25 years:
“I was moved to be a part of Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma at the state Capitol, and I was very excited to see that the people who we have entrusted to make decisions understand how important it is for victims of abuse to have a voice in our judicial system equal to that as the abuser.”
Oklahoma House of Representatives
House Republican Caucus
February 21, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Jason Sutton, Press Secretary
House Republican Caucus
Cell: (405) 328-8382