Opinion | Celebrating 3 years of Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin

To say a lot has happened since April 7, 2020, might be one of the biggest understatements of all time. In the past three years we’ve seen everything from a once-in-a-generation global pandemic to a contentious and divisive presidential election to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Of course, on a lighter note, it looks like we are also seeing the end of the Aaron Rodgers era with the Green Bay Packers.

However, something else very significant has taken place the past three years that hasn’t received the same attention that COVID0-19 or Aaron Rodgers has. Since that date, the criminal justice system in Wisconsin has been a much more compassionate and empowering place for crime victims. On April 7, 2020, Badger State voters — by an overwhelming 75% margin — ratified a crime victims' rights amendment to our state constitution known as Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law may not have impacted you directly these last three years because you were fortunate enough not to be a victim of a crime. For those who have found themselves in the criminal justice system through no fault of their own, however, Marsy’s Law provided them new rights, including protecting their privacy and giving them the opportunity to be heard in the courtroom well before sentencing.

For example, just days after Marsy’s Law went into effect, a Kenosha County victim of sexual assault and attempted homicide was able to exercise her new right to be heard in court at a bond hearing to ask the judge not to grant her attacker the release he was seeking. In Dane County, a sister of a drunk driving victim was able to speak in court and, because of her right to privacy under Marsy’s Law, her name was kept private at her request. And in Waukesha County Marsy’s Law rights were cited when an effort was made to change the venue and postpone the trial of the man convicted of killing six people at the Waukesha Christmas Parade.

Those examples are just a small sample of how Marsy’s Law has been impacting crime victims across the state on literally a daily basis over the last three years. As a survivor myself, I know the one thing crime victims want most is to feel like their voice matters. That’s what Marsy’s Law has been able to provide.

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to Araceli Esperanza, who said: “Latino communities face unique challenges, like immigration and language, when accessing their rights. These challenges are why I feel Marsy’s Law is so important. … We have to make sure all victims, regardless of background, can access these important rights.”

The parents of a sexual assault victim shared these thoughts: “We are glad we live in a state that has strong protections for crime victims. Wisconsin’s crime victims’ rights constitutional amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, played a crucial role in protecting our family from further trauma throughout the criminal justice process.”

Yes, a lot has happened these past three years that has impacted our state, country and world in ways we could never have imagined. Here in Wisconsin, Marsy’s Law is impacting crime victims in a way I am certain the more than 1.1 million Wisconsin residents who voted yes to ratify Marsy’s Law three years ago would be very pleased with.