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Local

Supervisors table Marsy’s Law resolution

Board supports legislative efforts but wants OK from sheriff, county attorney

Eric Baker, state director of Marsy’s Law for Iowa, speaks with the Jasper County Board of Supervisors during its meeting Tuesday morning at the Jasper County Courthouse. Baker proposed a resolution seeking Jasper County's support for Marsy's Law, a law to elevate victims' rights.
Eric Baker, state director of Marsy’s Law for Iowa, speaks with the Jasper County Board of Supervisors during its meeting Tuesday morning at the Jasper County Courthouse. Baker proposed a resolution seeking Jasper County's support for Marsy's Law, a law to elevate victims' rights.

Jasper County’s support of a law that has already passed in other states and guarantees as many rights to the victims of crime as the perpetrators who commit them was put on hold by the board of supervisors until they personally spoke with the county’s attorney and sheriff.

Wanting feedback and input from Jasper County Attorney Scott Nicholson and Sheriff John Halferty, both of whom were not present at the Tuesday morning board meeting, the supervisors motioned to table the resolution proposed by Marsy’s Law for Iowa until a later date.

Eric Baker, state director of Marsy’s Law for Iowa, wanted the Jasper County Board of Supervisors to pass the resolution and thereby declare their support of the statewide effort to elevate victims of crime rights into the state constitution.

Prior to tabling the resolution, Baker told the supervisors he had already spoken with Halferty and Nicholson this past week and claimed they were in support of the resolution. Jasper County Supervisors Brandon Talsma and Denny Carpenter said they both wanted to talk to their sheriff and county attorney before deciding on the matter.

“I think it’s a good idea but I would like to have conversations with Sheriff Halferty and Scott first,” Talsma said.

Marsy’s Law is an amendment adopted by multiple state constitutions, including Illinois, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Ohio and California, where the law originated. Other state organizations are focusing their efforts in states like Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Maine, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin, in addition to Iowa, according to MarseyLawforIowa.com.

“Iowa is one of the most challenging states in the country to amend the constitution and that’s for a very good reason,” Baker said. “We want to make sure that our constitution is a display of our values in this state and that it’s succinct and it is long lasting.”

The Iowa chapter of the legislative organization was named after Marsy Nicholas, a student from the University of California Santa Barbara who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week after she was murdered, her brother and mother were confronted by the accused in a local grocery store after visiting Nicholas’ grave.

“The pain and suffering Marsy’s family endured after her death is typical for family members of murder victims. They were not informed Marsy’s murderer had been released because the courts and law enforcement, though well meaning, had no obligation to keep them informed,” the Marsy’s Law for Iowa website stated.

The law expands the legal rights of victims, demanding the criminal justice system treat them with “fairness, dignity and respect” in the event of a serious crime, according to resolution draft, and ensuring experiences like that of the Nicholas family never happen again.

The draft of the resolution out before the Jasper County Board of Supervisors said 7,132 Iowans were victims of violent crimes in 2017, as disclosed by the most recent Crimes in the United States report penned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

By supporting Marsy’s Law, Jasper County agrees with the organization’s efforts to allow victims or survivors to be notified of the status of the defendant and case, protected from said defendant and entitled to restitution, as well as the chance to be reasonably heard at public proceedings and “given a voice.”

The Iowa organization promoting the law has already traveled to about 70 counties in the state to talk to all the stakeholders involved in victims’ rights legislation, Baker said, including members of law enforcement, county attorneys and victims of crime.

Baker said Marsy’s Law for Iowa has convinced four other counties to sign resolutions declaring their support of victims’ rights in about four weeks time.

The resolutions with Iowa counties will also serve as encouragement to Iowa legislators to discuss the law and contemplate adopting it into the state constitution.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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