Lawmakers push for Marsy's Law in Illinois

Springfield, Ill • Family members of murder victims arrived in Springfield today to support a change to the Illinois Constitution, which would further protect the rights of crime victims and their families.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Lawmakers push for Marsy's Law in Illinois

Apr 25, 2012


Mary Kay Mace, mother of Ryanne Mace, a Northern Illinois University student who was killed when a gunman opened fire on a classroom two years ago, was denied her right to make a victim’s impact statement to her daughter’s killer.

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins, director of Marsy’s Law for Illinois and founder of, was also denied her right to address the murderer of her sister and brother-in-law through a victim's impact statement. 

“We didn’t know we had an actual right to make that statement, to confront the killer,” Bishop-Jenkins said. “It was our only chance ever to say to him what he had done to us and to put it into the record.”

The House resolution, which was filed by state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, calls for a constitutional amendment, which lays out specific rights for crime victims and their families, and requires law enforcement officers to notify victims of their rights.

Under Lang’s legislation, crime victims would have the right to be notified of post-trial proceedings and to be heard at any of those proceedings, they would also have the right to be notified of the defendant’s early release or parole, and have access to any documents related to the case.

“The purpose of this is to ensure that folks who have been victims of molestation, rape, and those who’s family members have been murdered can be confident that they have a voice and a right to be heard,” said state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago.

The resolution was inspired by Marsy’s Law; a California statute that was passed in 2008.

The law was created on behalf of Marsalee Nicholas, a college student who was murdered by her ex boyfriend. A week after her daughter was killed, Marsalee’s mother was confronted by her daughter’s killer in a grocery store, and had not been notified that he had been released on bail. This incident prompted legislation that would make victims of crime and their families aware of their rights. California law now requires law enforcement officers to read crime victims their “Marsy’s Rights” just as they read “Miranda Rights” to those they arrest.

Opponents of the law claim that it gives victims' families an excessive role in prosecutions.

Bishop-Jenkins and her husband, also a family member of a murder victim, work to raise awareness of victims’ rights in Illinois.

Bishop-Jenkins said her hope for the constitutional amendment is that it will force those working in the Illinois criminal justice system to be more proactive in notifying victims of their rights.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the House resolution today, but made changes in the language, so it will be sent back to the House to be approved. Since the resolution proposes a change in the state's Constitution, it requires a 3/5 vote in both chambers before it can appear on the ballot this fall.

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  • B Howard
    published this page in Latest News 2020-10-08 13:39:30 -0700