ICYMI: Jendusa-Nicolai Promotes Marsy’s Law on Recent Radio Interviews

Assault survivor and prominent victims’ rights advocate Teri Jendusa Nicolai promotes second consideration of bipartisan victims’ rights legislation during interviews with O’Donnell, Bader

MADISON  15 years ago, Marsy's Law for Wisconsin State Chair Teri Jendusa-Nicolai was kidnapped, beaten with a baseball bat, suffocated, dumped in a snow-filled trash can, and left to die in a frozen storage shed. Over the past month, she shared her incredible story of survival and subsequent advocacy for equal rights for crime victims during a series of recent radio interviews.

Introduced for second consideration as Assembly Joint Resolution 1/Senate Joint Resolution 2 the bipartisan victims’ rights legislation known as Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin was authored by State Senators Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) and State Representatives Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville) and David Crowley (D-Milwaukee). With more than 50 listed cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, the bill was approved in January by committees in the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly and is now available for scheduling for a full vote of each legislative chamber.

You can listen to the full interview from News/Talk 1130 WISN online here or find excerpts quoted below:

Interview with Marsy's Law for Wisconsin Chair, Teri Jendusa Nicolai
Dan O’Donnell Show
January 29, 2019

Dan: “Tell us more about Marsy’s Law and your advocacy of it.”

Teri: “When I was first contacted about Marsy’s Law I thought, what a perfect fit… to me this was the natural next step in working towards victim rights, and making things more even for victims in the courtroom and across Wisconsin… What we’re trying to do in Wisconsin is take some of the rights that victims already have as statutory rights, adding a few other ones, and making those rights constitutional… The constitutional rights are more guaranteed. They can’t be taken away with the stroke of a pen. They can’t be changed as easily. These are guaranteed rights that the victims have, such as the right to notification. Again, a lot of these things we already have, but they’re statutory. We’re just trying to make these rights stronger—we’re trying to seal them in. After all, the criminals in our justice system have constitutional rights.”

Dan: “Why shouldn’t victims?”

Teri: “Right. Why shouldn’t victims? Now, the big thing that I’ve heard at the hearings that I’ve gone to, I’ve heard some backlash from defense attorneys saying, ‘you’re taking away from the rights of the accused.’ This absolutely does not take any rights away from the accused. Absolutely not. They still have all of their constitutional rights, which we are not touching. It doesn’t take anything away. But what it does is strengthen the rights that the victims have. So lets just say, in my case, I lost my baby I was carrying because of what happened to me. What the defense wanted to do, in my case, was say, ‘well, if you’re going to claim that you miscarried, have you ever miscarried, ever in your life?’ Well, what does it have to do with what happened?”

Dan: “I mean it’s pretty obvious you miscarried because of what happened.”

Teri: “Exactly, so what that would do is say, okay defense attorneys, you may not go on a fishing expedition. You can use the evidence—that’s discovery—that’s relative to your case.”

You can listen to the full interview from 620 WTMJ Radio online here or find excerpts quoted below:

Interview with Marsy's Law for Wisconsin Chair, Teri Jendusa Nicolai
The Jeff Wagner Show with Guest Host Jerry Bader

February 22, 2019

Jerry: “What happened as this moved through the criminal justice system, that you feel—or for other victims as well—but certainly based on your experience, why this is necessary?”

Teri: “In my particular case, there were a few things that stand out… I remember my ex saying—being told—that he was going to plead not guilty. It’s like, are you kidding me? You’ve got the victim who survived that can tell them everything that happened, they had 105 pieces of physical evidence… I just felt like I really had no voice in that whatsoever…”

Jerry: “What do you say to opponents of Marsy’s Law that say it diminishes constitutional rights that defendants now have?”

Teri: “Marsy’s Law… specifically states that it does not touch the rights of the accused…all of their rights are constitutional. All Marsy’s Law is doing is taking the majority of the laws that already exist for victims, that exist statutorily, and change them to constitutional. Let's say this: say there is a question of discovery, and say a woman were sexually assaulted, and her assaulter said I want to see her diary from 1986 ‘til now… the victim can say that my diary from 25 years ago has nothing to do with your attack on me two months ago, so I refuse that. That gives the judge more play, and it gives him more discretion… it is not taking away anything from the accused. If the judge decides that discovery is still important, he will say, yes, they need the discovery. But what we’re doing is stopping silly, foolish, fishing expeditions that have nothing to do with the case.”

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You can find facts on Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin’s bipartisan legislation below: 

·         Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin follows a proud tradition in our state of protecting victims’ rights, unlike many other states. Wisconsin already has a constitutional amendment on victims’ rights that passed in 1993, and was the first state in the nation to pass a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. The state also is recognized as having some of the strongest statutory rights for victims in the country. This means the changes we are proposing are about making sure victims’ rights are truly equal alongside the constitutional rights of the accused – nothing more, nothing less.

·         Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin strengthens rights that already exist in Wisconsin.The proposed amendment would do two things: Elevate certain rights currently under state statute to be fully constitutional rights, and strengthen other rights that are already part of the Constitution.

·         Nearly 80 percent of Wisconsinites support updating our state Constitution to ensure equal rights for crime victims. A poll of Wisconsinites found that nearly 80 percent support updating our state Constitution to ensure equal rights for crime victims. More than 80 percent support a victim’s right to speak up at more points in the criminal justice process, and 68 percent said they were “more likely” to support a state legislative candidate who supported Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin. The bipartisan legislation must be passed in the state Legislature twice, then by voters at the ballot box.

About Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin

Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is a grassroots coalition that has developed a unique proposal to give victims of crime equal rights in our state, building on Wisconsin’s laws and history of leading on this issue. Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his life’s mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights.

Victims and supporters interested in sharing their stories can email Wisconsin@marsyslaw.us.