Everything You Need to Know About Amendment 6 for the Upcoming Election

On November 6th, voters in Florida will be faced with making crucial decisions on twelve possible amendments to their state constitution.

One of the most heavily debated is that of Amendment 6, also referred to as “Marsy’s Law.” Modeled after the Victim’s Bill of Rights Act of 2008 in California, the purpose behind the legislation is to provide more rights for victims of heinous crimes.

 

Courtesy: Florida Phoenix 

 

The first type of this legislation was created following the murder of California resident Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas in 1983. A week after the murder, Marsy’s family ran into the killer at the local grocery store after he posted bail for the murder charges. “I went in and he was coming out of the market. But we weren't notified or anything” explains Marsy’s mother, Marcella Leach. Although the man was later convicted, Marsy’s brother never forgot about Conley, “standing there, staring [his] mother down.”

After creating a successful tech startup, Henry Nicholas (Marsy’s brother) finally had the money to back the campaign for legislation that would prevent families from ever enduring such a traumatic experience. In 2008, the proposal passed with a 54% vote in California.

Essentially, this amendment would raise the required retirement age for judges in Florida, even Supreme Court Justices, from 70 to 75. It would also prevent state courts from using an agency’s interpretation of a law or statute. Most importantly, this piece of legislation would greatly expand the victim’s rights. Victims would now have protection from those accused, provided with rights to due process and sentencing reports, and the opportunity to ask for more rights on a case by case basis. Furthermore, it would also set deadlines for state appeals to be completed.

In the years since similar movements have spread across Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Iowa, Oklahoma, Florida, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Georgia. The legislation has already been passed in Ohio, Illinois, and Texas.

The debate continues in Florida seeing as it is on the ballot during the upcoming election in November. In the past week, more video advertisements have been released in support of this legislation. The set of three videos, each lasting only 30 seconds, shows people who have firsthand experience with the lack of victim’s rights in the state of Florida. In one of the videos, a Tallahassee native by the name of Agnes Furey explains how horrified she felt when a plea deal was made with the murderer of her daughter and grandson.

Also in support of the bill, a Florida native and author of “Who Will Cry for Staci” explains the gut-wrenching tale of the aftermath following his 10-year-old daughter’s murder. The loving father painstakingly waited nine months for his daughter’s killers to be arrested. The family dealt with overturned convictions, plea bargains, and even parole hearings. “I certainly never thought my family’s rights would not be equal to the criminals. That’s exactly why Florida must add Amendment 6 to our state constitution. Voters have the power to give victims and their families the protections we desperately need,” explains Marvin Weinstein to USA Today.

 

Courtesy: Millennial Politics

 

Conversely, a few who argue against the bill include criminal defense attorneys, Florida’s Public Defender Association, the League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union. However, this legislation could further burden the court system and eradicate Constitutional restrictions that prevent infringement upon the rights of those accused. Moreover, the argument also cites that many of these rights are already established in current legislation and that this particular bill would be an unnecessary addition.

As the campaign continues with a financial backing of over $24 million in support of the bill, it's unlikely that Floridians will cease hearing about this debate. For more information on how you can get involved in the conversation by voting in the upcoming election, please visit https://dos.myflorida.com/elections/for-voters/.