It has been just over a year since voters in Oklahoma overwhelmingly approved Marsy’s Law, giving more rights to victims of crimes.
The state attorney general said it’s working.
Attorney General Mike Hunter held a press conference Tuesday, touting Marsy’s Law and the rights it gives to victims.
“They ensure that victims of crimes are informed of their rights, that they are notified of proceedings and developments in their cases, that they’re heard in court and that they have input into the process,” said AG Hunter.
It also ensures victims are treated with respect and dignity throughout the process.
“It has increased the accessibility for critical information for crime victims and their families,” said AG Hunter.
That’s important to Lauren Layman. Her grandmother, 77-year-old Ola Kirk, was raped, beaten and murdered in her Geary home in 1983. The case went cold but was revived in 2010.
“We hadn’t heard from anybody in probably two decades about the case, and I wondered why are they working on something and not telling us? We just thought the case was closed,” said Layman.
Even then, Layman couldn’t get answers.
“Because they were bound by confidentiality laws and couldn’t talk to me about the case. So, we would call other agencies and none of them would talk to me about the case,” she said.
DNA evidence later matched Lester Blackbear to Kirk's case. Blackbear was a lifetime registered sex offender and had been convicted of burglary, rape, and escape from custody. He was charged with the murder but died before he could go to trial.
Laymen said Marsy’s Law helps victims and their families cope with tragedy by keeping them in the loop.
“This is important because if you don’t know your rights and you don’t know what they are, they can’t protect you,” she said.
This year, the legislature passed House Bill 1102, ensuring the rights established in the state constitution through Marsy’s Law are mirrored in state law.
“That victims have access in a memorialized way to their rights both via our website, publications that we make available for law enforcement and the affirmative responsibility that law enforcement has to advise a victim of their rights,” said AG Hunter.
House Bill 1102 goes into effect In November of 2019.