Amid Dems’ opposition, “Marsy’s Law” group launches campaign
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Backers of a constitutional amendment to expand North Carolina crime victims’ rights formally launched their campaign Monday, even as state Democrats oppose its passage despite bipartisan legislative support to put the question on the ballot.
The pro-referendum group called “Marsy’s Law for North Carolina” held simultaneous news conferences in state’s two largest cities seeking to build support for the amendment.
Former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory appeared in Charlotte to speak in support of the proposal. In downtown Raleigh, a key legislator, former and current local law enforcement and a crime victim spoke at a garden dedicated to crime victims.
There’s already a crime victims’ amendment in the state constitution, approved two decades ago. The proposed constitutional change, if approved by voters, would give crime victims a right to updates on court proceedings and to be notified if the person accused of the crime is released from custody.
Maurice Colbert, who said he was assaulted last year, said at the Raleigh event that he felt the system had let him down.
“It seemed to me that the offender had more rights and services than I did,” Colbert said.
While the General Assembly agreed to put the question on the ballot by wide margins, the state Democratic Party has come out against it and the five other amendments this fall. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper last week called the crime victims’ amendment “unnecessary.” While in the legislature in the 1990s, Cooper helped pass the law that submitted the initial amendment to voters.
Former Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, who helped lobby for the amendment at the Legislative Building, said victim protection laws need to be updated.
“There’s been a lot of political rhetoric about whether we need things or whether we do not,” Willoughby said at the Raleigh event. “But it’s been 20 years since that happened and a lot has changed both here and across the state and in the country.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina opposes the crime victims’ amendment on the ballot. State ACLU policy director Sarah Gillooly on Monday called the proposal “a misguided set of empty promises” that would cost taxpayers $30 million a year to implement.
Marsy’s Law for North Carolina already began running radio ads in recent weeks and is prepared to spend $5 million to work toward its passage. The money will come from a national Marsy’s Law effort created by California tech billionaire Henry Nicholas. Similar crime victims’ amendment questions are on the ballot in five other states this year.
The proposal is named for Nicholas’ sister “Marsy” Nicholas, who was killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend.