Kentucky’s general election ballot this fall includes a new version of a proposal voters previously passed, but later was struck down on appeal through the court system.
Advocates say Constitutional Amendment No.1 already is the law in 35 states because it protects victims’ rights. The American Civil Liberties Union Kentucky strongly opposes the reworded proposal primarily because, in its view, the law undermines the accused person’s presumption of innocence.
“Kentucky is one of only 15 states that fails to provide constitutional rights for crime victims,” writes Benton Nighbert, the coordinator advocating for Marsy’s Law for Kentucky, also known as Constitutional Amendment No. 1 on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Nighbert asserts that individuals “accused and convicted are afforded numerous constitutional rights,” while “victims are left with only statutory rights and little ability to enforce them.” He says that these individuals “are often inadvertently re-victimized by the justice system when they feel forgotten or silenced.” He specifically calls for the victim’s “right to notice of the proceedings, to be present in the courtroom, and to be heard at specific proceedings.”
ACLU of Kentucky staff attorney Heather Gatnarek writes on her organization’s website that the ACLU “firmly believes that crime victims deserve justice. At the same time, we oppose this effort to change Kentucky’s Constitution to include these supposed victims’ rights. We know this because other states that have implemented Marsy’s Law have faced many challenges, including a lack of transparency in the justice system; unlikely groups, like police departments, claiming victim status; and astronomical implementation costs.” She further asserts that the proposed law “uses inconsistent and confusing language that would create significant unintended consequences.”
Referring to the reappearance of Marsy’s Law on the ballot, Lyon County Sheriff Brent White calls the new proposal “very lengthy,” adding that “Part of the reason is that this already has been decided by voters once. However, they had to go back and redo it because of a technicality. This constitutional amendment would fix that. Many of the provisions that this constitutional amendment will provide are some of the same rights that they’re already given, but it codifies it in the constitution.”