State Sen. John Kennedy speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the Coverdell Legislative Office Building in Atlanta. He’s the sponsor of a bill and resolution that would require that victims be informed about the progress in cases of those accused of harming them. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Reann Huber
Photo: Reann Huber

Crime victims ask Georgia Legislature for constitutional rights

Once Andrew Fordham was arrested, she said prosecutors did not inform her when hearings in the case against him were held, nor would they be required to inform Sims when her ex-boyfriend is released.

“There is no law that says they have to notify me,” said Sims, a McDonough resident.

Fordham was convicted of one count of aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated battery in 2016 and sentenced to 20 years in prison followed by 20 years of probation.

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Sims is one of the victims urging lawmakers to pass a duo of bills, being dubbed “Marsy’s Law,” that could alter the state’s constitution and require notification of the progress in the cases of those accused of harming them. Senate Bill 127 and Senate Resolution 146 are both expected to be debated Tuesday on the House floor.

“We think that the rights that crime victims ought to have in this state ought to be found and embodied in our constitution,” said state Sen. John Kennedy, R-Macon, who is sponsoring the legislation. “This says that all crime victims should be treated with dignity and respect. And it says you have a right to be notified when there is some proceeding going on with your case.”

If lawmakers approve the measure, and Georgia voters say they believe the constitution should be amended, those who have been hurt will have the ability to insist upon notification as cases work their way through the system. If a victim isn’t notified, he or she could petition the court to rectify that.

“The crime victim doesn’t sue or prosecute the perpetrator; it’s the state that does it,” Kennedy said. “But it’s the victim that’s the most impacted by this, and so that victim ought to be notified and have the right to be heard in the core proceedings dealing with their case.”

Sims, who now runs a nonprofit teaching young people about domestic violence, said she doesn’t want other crime victims to be left in the dark as cases make it through court.

“Just knowing that the person that hurt you is free puts you on guard to be able to protect yourself,” she said. “And we don’t have that right now.”

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at PoliticallyGeogia.com.

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