Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Marsy’s Law is working well


From page A12 | May 24, 2013 |

On a sunny California day in 1983, a woman loading bags into her car trunk in a supermarket parking lot was suddenly confronted by a gunman who forced her into the car, tied her up and drove her away.

Minutes later, in another parking lot, he blocked another car’s attempted exit from a space and, with help from an accomplice, kidnapped one of the two women in it. He then drove both his victims to a remote canyon, where he and the accomplice and one other man repeatedly raped the women before stealing their purses and leaving them behind.

The gunman, Michael Vicks, was convicted of these and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison, thanks to laws that provide enhanced sentencing in cases involving guns.

Imagine, now, that you are one of those rape victims and encounter Vicks — who you believed was behind bars for good — in a random encounter in a store.

That sort of thing happened to another woman, Marcella Leach, whose daughter Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, was stalked and murdered by an ex-boyfriend, coincidentally also in 1983. Only a week after that killing, Leach entered a grocery store after visiting her daughter’s fresh grave and was stunned to be confronted by the accused killer, freed on bail without any notice to the victim’s family.

A desire to minimize those sorts of encounters was behind the 2008 Proposition 9, also called Marsy’s Law and the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act, sponsored primarily by Marsalee’s brother Henry, now an electronics multimillionaire.

It requires that victims and their relatives be notified of every bail or parole hearing involving people accused of harming them.

Also prior to this law, inmates found unsuitable for parole by the state Board of Parole Hearings had the right to a new hearing within five years if convicted of murder, or within two years in lesser crimes. That’s one reason the likes of Charles Manson and his followers have come up for parole consideration repeatedly in recent years.

Michael Vicks (no relation to the similarly named Philadelphia Eagles quarterback) was convicted long before Marsy’s Law passed, so it was somewhat reasonable to expect that after he was denied parole in 2009 because of the “horrific” nature of his crimes, he would get another hearing two years later. He did not, because of Marsy’s Law, and he sued.

Vicks claimed that to subject him to the provisions of Marsy’s Law violates the Constitution’s prohibition on ex post facto laws, those that apply to events that occurred before the law passed.

Now the state Supreme Court has ruled his claim utterly without merit. Marsy’s Law, wrote Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, is not ex post facto because it does not increase the punishment for his crime.

“In light of the circumstances of his kidnapping offenses,” said Cantil-Sakauye, “such as the movement of the victims, the sexual assaults and the use of a firearm, it appears … that he would be required to remain incarcerated even if he were found suitable for parole.”

So Marsy’s Law now applies not just for crime victims from late 2008 and beyond, but also for those whose lives were blighted many years earlier.

What’s more, the law ensures that Vicks’ victims will always know about it long in advance when he gets a parole hearing or there is any other legal proceeding in his case. They are also guaranteed the right to be heard at any parole hearing in his case.

As for more recent victims, they will always be informed of bail hearings, trials or sentencing hearings in their cases. Any parole and probation decisions also must take into account victims’ safety and preferences.

Which means there should be no more encounters like the one Marcella Leach endured. This is one law that appears to be working exactly as the voters intended when they passed it. And maybe even a little better than expected, now that the Vicks decision is in.

— Reach syndicated columnist Tom Elias at



  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    At Davis intersections, let’s be careful out there

    By Kim Orendor | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Data reveal racial disparities at Davis High

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Garden celebrations are part of back-to-school activities

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Web tool for kids highlighted at local meeting

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Young author will present her first book

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Sign up students to make music this school year

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A3

    Comings & Goings, on ‘Davisville’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Sierra Club leaders to hear about Nishi Gateway Project

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Picnic scheduled for diabetes patients

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Poppenga to host campaign kickoff celebration

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Schools offer free obsolete textbooks

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

    Oncogene test can determine prostate cancer aggression

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Faces in the courtroom

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A7

    ‘Bak2Sac’ free train ride program launched

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10

    Pence Gallery: Art of all kinds will go up for bids

    By Natalie Nelson | From Page: A10 | Gallery





    No patsies for Aggie men’s water polo as NCAA champs are up first

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Look for more of an aerial assault from DHS this fall

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS girls are loaded for 2014 cross country season

    By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Next time it counts: Devils win Foundation Match

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Giants rally from six runs down to win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Sign up now for flag football

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

    Oakland comeback falls short

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8





    Film series returns with ‘In July’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Mania! lands at Woodland Opera House

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    DMTC to open 30th season with ‘Shrek, The Musical’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Black and white explored in coming Artery exhibition

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Outdoor art classes to close out summer

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    Marionettes, band concert planned for Grandparents Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9





    Maureen J. Rathfon

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Marilyn Jeanne Van Heuit Brooks

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4



    Comics: Wednesday, September 3, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6