© 2022 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government & Politics
2018 was a big election year in Ohio. Republicans held onto all five statewide executive offices including governor and super majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate. But there were a few bright spots for Democrats, among them the reelection of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and the election of two Democrats to the Ohio Supreme Court.With election 2018 over, the focus now shifts to governing. Stay connected with the latest on politics, policies and people making the decisions at all levels affecting your lives.

Marsy's Law Overwhelmingly Passes, Making Ohio the Sixth State to Adopt the Measure

photo of Cathy Harper Lee
Cathy Harper Lee of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center was joined by crime victims to celebrate the passage of Marsy' Law in Tuesday's election.

Issue 1, the constitutional amendment that gives crime victims legal standing, was overwhelming approved by Ohio voters at the ballot box. It passed 83-17.

A surprising win, even for supporters
Dr. Henry Nicholas financed most of the Ohio campaign to pass Issue 1, known as Marsy’s Law. It’s named for his sister, who was killed by her boyfriend in 1983. Nicholas flew in from California to be with supporters of Marsy’s Law as the results came in on Election Night. And he seemed surprised at its overwhelming passage.

“Holy crap, we did it,” Nicholas told a crowd of supporters. “What a win!”

'I think much of the legal profession -- the courts, the prosecutors, the defense attorneys -- are going to be left wondering the exact ramifications of this.'

Cathy Harper Lee, executive director of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, was also surprised by the huge support for the issue.

“So many of us survivors and advocates have survived on faith and hope," Lee said. "Faith that our experiences and struggles would not be in vain and hope that other crime victims would not have faced the same injustices that we have faced and hope that one day, we would have a criminal justice system that was truly fair and balanced. And that day has come and that day has come big.”

Will it work in Ohio?
Ohio now becomes the sixth state to adopt Marsy’s Law. California was the first. Orange County California District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says it’s worked well there.

“Everybody has to recognize that they have rights, that the victims of crime have standing, and that the victim’s interests are going to be prominent in court so nobody talks about a case without talking about restitution, nobody talks about a case without talking about how much damage there was to a victim, and justice to the victims and it just makes a huge difference," Rackauckas said.

But that difference is what the ACLU of Ohio’s Gary Daniels worries about. Opponents who had spoken out against the issue said most of the rights in this amendment were already in state law. And they were particularly concerned giving victims legal standing in criminal cases. And Daniels says he’s also worried about the provision that makes it harder for the accused to get evidence from crime victims through the legal process known as discovery.

“Being able to shut down discovery, that is the person who has been merely accused of a crime to find out information that takes place in the usual give and take of these types of cases and when you have one side completely shut down now, that is going to have some impact on that person’s constitutional rights.”

Daniels says he understands the cause behind this issue is popular and difficult to argue against.

“You know it’s hard to overcome that basic message of victims’ rights but here, where you are going to have a lot of vague language, a lot of broad language," Daniels said. "I think much of the legal profession, the courts, the prosecutors, the defense attorneys are going to be left wondering the exact ramifications of this.”

Daniels said he expects there will be litigation in the future somewhere that will question the new amendment in court if it plays out the way he thinks it might.