Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
Recently, The Wilson Times carried a column about the constitutional amendments that will be on the ballot this fall. (“Lawmakers advance torrent of awful amendments” by Rob Schofield, July 6.) The column called them “awful,” including the Marsy’s Law amendment along with the rest of them. I’d like to take a minute to talk about why Marsy’s Law is different, and why it is so necessary.
In 2003, Dena Bailey was abducted in Wilson County by her estranged husband, Ricky Bailey, and murdered. Dena’s family was devastated by her death. She left behind two beautiful children, her grieving parents and sister, and her friends and colleagues. It was a huge loss for the entire community.
Then the criminal justice system stepped in to investigate what had happened to Dena. For those who have never experienced criminal victimization, our response through the courts is often a shock. It is not like an episode of “Law & Order,” not by a long shot.
There are multiple hearings, which means the surviving family has to relive, and often learn new details of the crime. The fragile scabs get ripped open again and again.
Some families, like Dena’s, get lucky. They work with a competent, thoughtful prosecutor who treats them respectfully. Other families across North Carolina are not so lucky. Sometimes cases go on for years before they’re heard. They know little to nothing about what is going on or what to expect. The process is excruciating and re-victimizing.
Being a victim of a crime is a life-altering event for the primary victims and those who love them. The best way for them to start to pull their lives together again is to get support and information throughout the criminal process, and to feel that their voices will be heard. This is precisely what Marsy’s Law will guarantee. Families will be given notice of hearings. They will know when, or if, the offender is going to be released. They will know what restrictions have been placed on the defendant. In other words, they will be central, not peripheral, to the process.
Rather than wondering what is happening, they will be informed. Information is power, and it is empowering. For crime victims across North Carolina, doing everything we can to help them deal with what has happened, to diminish their pain and grief, and to help the healing process start is the least we can do. Marsy’s Law will do a lot to guarantee those rights.