Marsy’s Law for South Dakota Urges Officials To Prioritize Victims’ Rights in Midst of COVID-19 Outbreak


Monday, March 23, 2020


Nick Klitzing, K2 & Co.

618-322-1514, [email protected]


Marsy’s Law denounces ACLU’s call to commute sentences and release prisoners without consideration for victims’ rights

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, South Dakota’s seven judicial circuits released detailed procedures to address and prevent the spread of the virus. Shortly thereafter, the ACLU of South Dakota called on officials to commute the sentences of offenders or otherwise release them, including convicted felons, without any consideration for victims’ rights.

While Marsy's Law for South Dakota appreciates the need to take extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, government and criminal justice officials must also remember that victims have rights enshrined in the South Dakota Constitution that must be considered. Those protections include the right for victims and family members of victims to provide input during deliberations on the early release or parole of offenders, as well as timely notification when an offender is released from prison. The ACLU of South Dakota’s call to release prisoners and offenders without victim input defies those constitutional protections.

Marsy’s Law for South Dakota released the following statement (attributable to Erinn Mahathey, National Outreach Director for Marsy's Law):

“Marsy's Law for South Dakota urges government officials to prioritize their constitutional duty to allow victims to be notified and heard before the release of inmates or pretrial offenders while taking any measures to address the potential spread of COVID-19. Notification of inmates’ release – whether early or on schedule – is now a constitutional right provided to crime victims. ACLU of South Dakota’s call to release offenders and prisoners, without consideration for victim rights, ignores the constitutional rights of all South Dakotans. We appreciate that government and law enforcement officials must make difficult decisions to help alleviate the spread of COVID-19, and we support extraordinary efforts to contain this global pandemic. But we want to make sure the interests of victims are considered and their constitutional rights are upheld throughout every step of the criminal justice process, even in this time of crisis.”


About Marsy’s Law for South Dakota:

Marsy's Law for South Dakota led the campaign in 2016 to pass Amendment S adding a Crime Victims' Bill of Rights to the South Dakota Constitution. The amendment passed overwhelmingly with a margin of 60% - 40%, giving crime victims in South Dakota meaningful and enforceable constitutional rights equal to the rights of the accused.

Marsy’s Law for South Dakota is a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights that is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Ann Nicholas, a beautiful, vibrant college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, her mother Marcella and her brother Henry walked into a grocery store after visiting Marsy’s grave and were confronted by the accused murderer. They had no idea that he had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.