Marsy’s Law names local chairmen
Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift have been named Woodford County co-chairs for the effort to bring Marsy’s Law to Kentucky next year. The law was named for Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a California college student murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after her murder, the man accused of killing her confronted Marsy’s brother and mother, who’d just returned from visiting her grave, in a grocery store. They didn’t know he’d been released on bail. According to www.marsyslaw.us, Kentucky is one of just 15 states without constitutional-level rights for victims of crime: “If adopted by Kentucky voters in November 2018, Marsy’s Law would amend the state constitution to ensure crime victims have the right to a voice in the judicial process, the right to be present in judicial hearings and the right to be made aware of upcoming hearings or changes in their offender’s status.” A news release from the state chapter of Marsy’s Law said Marsy Nicholas’s mother was not informed, “… because the courts and law enforcement, though well meaning, had no obligation to keep her informed. While criminals have more than 20 individuals’ rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, the surviving family members of murder victims have none.” “As mayor of Midway, part of my job is ensuring our town is a safe place for all of our residents to call home. Protecting our victims and providing them with the support they need in the judicial process does not just better Midway, it betters Kentucky,” Vandegrift said in the release.” I know the residents of Midway join me in strongly supporting equal rights for crime victims.” Traugott said the effort is important to him for several reasons: because he was a House Democratic aide when the proposal came to Kentucky, his feelings for the family of Versailles murder victim six-year-old Logan Tipton, and because he’s a “constitutional purist.” “I don’t believe in loading up the Constitution. I don’t believe it should take the place of statutes, ever. … It ought to be a sacred document that is used only to delineate rights for people, things of that nature,” Traugott said. “What is absent in our constitutional framework, definitely the U.S. Constitution, but also the state’s, is rights for victims. There are rights for the accused …” Traugott acknowledged that Kentucky law does allow family members of crime victims to attend all judicial proceedings and testify during sentencing. “That’s after these people have taken off work for four years to get to the sentencing phase. You can look at the date of … the Tipton murder (Dec. 7, 2015). We’re far from a sentencing phase,” Traugott said. Traugott said there’s a difference between the ability to attend court hearings and the right to attend them – and to be notified of their dates. “The General Assembly could change that in January, and say all hearings are closed,” Traugott said. “The state is represented by virtue of being a party, but the state doesn’t necessarily represent the whole interests of the victims. It’s not necessarily their role – the state represents all of us, and you and I shouldn’t have equal roles with Logan Tipton’s parents in the judicial process. There are different levels of impact,” Traugott said. “I want my interest represented, as a taxpayer and citizen and someone concerned about safety, but their role (the Tiptons) should carry more weight than mine,” he said. If Marsy’s Law passes the state House and Senate by a three-fifths majority, it will be on the November 2018 ballot. “This is not a tough one, politically, to take a stand on …” Traugott said.