State News

'Marsy's Law' boosting crime victim protection clears state Senate

The state Senate approved Tuesday a bill amending the state Constitution to boost the rights of crime victims

Image By: Amileah Sutliff

A bill that would amend the state Constitution to protect crime victims passed the state Senate with bipartisan support Tuesday.

Although Wisconsin is the first state to pass a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, supporters argue the bill will ensure victims’ rights further than before by putting the legislation into the state Constitution. The legislation passed the state Senate on a 29-4 vote.

The amendment is intended to create more privacy for victims by ensuring their right to deny defense attorneys’ interviews, be heard at preliminary court hearings and to protect their ability to attend all proceedings of the trial. The amendment also removed previous language that allows victims to seal their records.

Resolution 53 is based on the campaign Marsy’s Law, established after a California woman, Marsalee Nicholas, was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, who later confronted her mother and brother in a grocery store after he was released on bail. The Nicholas family, who was unaware of the perpetrator’s release, then established a campaign in an effort to create further protections for victims.

Before the vote, the legislation had over 200 key endorsements from supporters, including survivors. Many victims have gotten involved to help push the passing of this legislation. One of the leaders of the push for new victims’ rights legislation in Wisconsin originally stemmed from domestic violence victim-turned spokeswoman, Teri Jendusa-Nicolai.

In 2004, Jendusa-Nicolai survived an attack from her ex-husband. She has since become a prominent advocate of victims’ rights and a major supporter of Marsy’s law.

“Our lawmakers continue to demonstrate their concern for survivors like me, and I am deeply grateful for their support of this bipartisan legislation that will give victims a stronger voice in the courtroom,” Jendusa-Nicola said after today’s vote.

Fiona Wakefield, a recent graduate of Madison College, also said she contacted legislators to share her story, urging them to put themselves in the victims’ shoes.

“I was 14 when I was raped. Statistically that gives me 86 years left of life. The chances of me running into my rapist are pretty high with those odds,” Wakefield said. “Could you imagine the trauma of being approached without warning? This law is extremely important, and puts rights’ back into the hands of survivors and their loved ones, where it is deserved.”

The bill now moves to the state Assembly, who will vote on the proposal on Thursday.

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