AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — There is a movement across the country aimed at giving victims of crimes the same constitutional rights as the people who perpetrate them.
Several states have adopted Marsy's Law, named after a young woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. Now Maine is joining that movement.
Victims of crime do have rights under a state statute. But the way it's written, they have those rights when practical or when possible. This bill would guarantee those rights.
After 21-month Treven Cunningham was murdered along with his babysitter in the town of Dexter in 1999, Arthur Jette became an advocate for victim's rights. The little boy was his grandson.
"It shattered my reality and changed my entire perspective on life. It affected me right to my DNA," Jette said.
He's now working with Maine lawmakers to give victims rights under the constitution, the same as perpetrators of crimes are given. Rights that allow them to be part of the criminal justice process. Making sure they are informed of all of the proceedings in their case, including if a plea deal is being negotiated.
"To be able to talk to the prosecutor before the deal is offered. Not to say you can't do that, but to be able to be an active participant," Jette said.
Marsy's Law was first passed in California in 2008 after the family of Marsalee Nicholas walked into a grocery store and saw the man accused of murdering her had been released on bail. They were never notified.
"They were absolutely astonished to see their daughter's killer on the loose. They had no idea that had happened," said Senate President Michael Thibodeau. "That can't happen anymore."
Thibodeau said a similar bill has support from both parties in the Maine Legislature.
"I think most members of the Maine Legislature are anxious to make sure the victims of crimes have the same equal protections as those who are the perpetrators," he said.
The measure must get at least two-thirds support in the legislature before it can be sent out for voters to decide on the November ballot.