On April 14, 2020, the Kentucky Legislature approved a constitutional amendment that would add to the Kentucky Constitution specific rights for crime victims, together known as Marsy’s Law, for the November ballot. The specific rights include:
- to be treated with fairness and due consideration for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy;
- to be notified about proceedings;
- to be heard at proceedings involving release, plea, or sentencing of the accused;
- to proceedings free from unreasonable delays;
- to be present at trials;
- to consult with the state’s attorneys;
- to reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on behalf of the accused;
- to be notified about the release or escape of the accused;
- to have the victim’s and victim’s family’s safety considered when setting bail or determining release; and
- to receive restitution from the individual who committed the criminal offense.
Kentucky voters approved a Marsy’s Law amendment in 2018 with 63 percent of the vote, but it was overturned in KACDL v. Grimes and Board of Elections. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the ballot language did not provide enough information to voters, making the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment invalid. The ruling stated that the Kentucky Constitution requires that the full text of a proposed constitutional amendment be submitted to the electorate for a vote. The court wrote, “Because the form of the amendment that was published and submitted to the electorate for a vote in this case was not the full text, and was instead a question, the proposed amendment is void.”
The 2020 ballot will include a ballot question and the full text of the amendment.
This amendment was introduced as Senate Bill 15 (SB 15) on January 9, 2020. On February 25, 2020, the state Senate passed SB 15 in a vote of 31-6, with one abstaining. On April 14, 2020, the state House passed SB 15 in a vote of 74-15, with 11 not voting.
Marsy’s Law amendments have been approved in 14 states. Two were overturned, including the 2018 Kentucky amendment, and the election results for the 2019 amendment in Pennsylvania have not been certified pending a court ruling. Wisconsin voters approved a Marsy’s Law amendment on April 7, 2020.
Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, founded Marsy’s Law for All LLC, the national organization advocating for Marsy’s Law. As of April 2020, Ballotpedia identified $113.2 million in total contributions to the support campaigns for the 14 Marsy’s Law ballot measures. Of the total, 30 percent, or about $34 million, came directly from Henry Nicholas.