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Victim rights measure 'Marsy's Law' approved for North Dakota ballot

BISMARCK - A proposed constitutional measure that would expand the rights of North Dakota crime victims but faces opposition from both prosecutors and defense attorneys has been approved for the November ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said ...

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BISMARCK – A proposed constitutional measure that would expand the rights of North Dakota crime victims but faces opposition from both prosecutors and defense attorneys has been approved for the November ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Monday.

Sponsors needed 26,904 valid signatures to get the “Marsy’s Law” measure on the Nov. 8 ballot. They submitted 44,198 signatures on May 10, and 34,398 signatures were accepted as being qualified, Jaeger said in a news release.

The measure would strengthen victims’ rights as listed in current state law and add them to the state constitution, including the rights to be free from intimidation, to be heard in court proceedings and to be promptly notified when a defendant is released or escapes from custody.

The North Dakota Sheriff’s & Deputies Association has endorsed the measure.

Both the North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the North Dakota State’s Attorneys’ Association oppose it, saying existing protections adopted by lawmakers in 1987 and updated periodically since then are working and can be improved through the Legislature if needed.

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The law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week later, her mother was confronted by the accused killer in a grocery store, not realizing he’d been released on bail.

Her brother, Henry Nicholas, the wealthy co-founder of Broadcom Corp., pushed for the original Marsy’s Law passed by California voters in 2008 and has financed efforts to spread the law to other states, contributing more than $420,000 to the North Dakota sponsoring committee in December, campaign disclosures show.

Marsy’s Law initiated measures already have spots reserved on the November ballots in Montana and South Dakota. Illinois voters approved a version of Marsy’s Law in 2012.

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