The sweeping victory of State Issue 1 on Tuesday is a triumph long in the making, according to David Voth, executive director of Crime Victim Services in Lima.
Twenty-three years ago, Ohio voted to embed crime victim notification rules into the state constitution, and then in 1996 the state adopted a crime victim bill of rights, he said.
“This is the third piece now that will cap off and solidify victim rights, which we have not had and we need,” he said.
Nearly eight in 10 voters said Yes to Issue 1, also known as Marsy’s Law. Unofficial results show it passed 79.3 percent to 20.7 percent.
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Voth said the next step is to write implementation legislation that will put Marsy’s Law into action. The big margin of victory should send a message to the Ohio General Assembly to act swiftly and without watering it down, Voth said.
Andrea Rehkamp, of Oxford, and Voth were among those celebrating passage of Issue 1. Rehkamp got involved in Ohio’s crime victim rights movement after her 15-year-old son was killed by a drunken driver in 1981. She worked to pass the 1994 constitutional amendment.
“That passed in 1994 by 78 percent and we had no money,” she said.
Issue 1 had financial backing from California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas III, who has bankrolled and advocated passage of Marsy’s Law in five states, plus Ohio. Nicholas’ sister, Marsalee, was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in California in 1983. The Nicholas family was shocked to see her killer in a grocery store, out on bond without notice to them.
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California adopted Marsy’s Law a decade ago.
“I’ve been in this business for 45 years now, connected with the criminal justice system as a prosecutor and as private counsel and as a judge and elected district attorney,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “I can tell you there has been a big change, especially since Marsy’s Law enacted in California. You are going to be able to look forward to that change.”
Rackauckas said judges and prosecutors in California now consistently take crime victims’ interest into account.
“Nobody talks about a case without talking about restitution. Nobody talks about a case without talking about how much damage there was to the victim, justice for the victims, and it just makes a huge difference. So, what you’re going to find in Ohio — and I congratulate you on this great victory — is you’re going to find things are going to change for the better for the victims of crime, not necessarily better for the criminals,” he said. “The victims of crime are going to find justice in court, they’re going to find recognition and when they have their day in court, they’re going to at least know that they had a day in court.”