Marsy’s Law seeks to give crime victims meaningful and enforceable constitutional rights equal to the rights of the accused. It is named after a domestic violence victim from California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. An effort was thereafter initiated to provide comprehensive victim’s rights throughout the United States.
Violations in Athens-Clarke County
- State v. Luke Harrison Waldrop (click on link for additional information)
- After an accident on March 22, 2022, the Defendant was charged with (1) first-degree homicide by vehicle, (2) DUI, and (3) failure to provide clearance while passing a bicycle.
- In the accident, Luke Harrison Waldrop killed James V. Jones who was riding his bicycle. Due to a significant odor of alcohol, Mr. Waldrop was subjected to field sobriety tests which he failed. After a subpoena was obtained, the Defendant refused to submit to a blood test.
- For over year, the District Attorney’s office communicated with Susan Wilson, the common-law wife of Mr. Jones. At no time did they suggest she was not considered the victim for purpose of receiving notice on updates with the court case.
- Without notice to the victim’s family, the District Attorney’s office made a last minute plea offer to the Defendant’s attorney. The assigned district attorney then resigned.
- On the morning of the plea, the District Attorney’s office made an attempt to contact Ms. Wilson regarding the plea hearing, but the phone call was missed. They also called the sister of James Jones who lives in Virginia.
- DA Gonzalez had a recent law graduate, who has not yet passed the bar and is working as an Apprentice Attorney (pending bar results) handle the plea colloquy. That intern had limited factual background on the case and was not familiar with the evidence implicating Luke Harrison Waldrop in the accident.
- The interim allowed the defense attorney to provide the factual basis to the Court regarding the charges. Despite the contradictory information in the police report, the defense attorney appears to have misrepresented the facts of the underlying crime to Judge Stephens. It was alleged that the bicyclist, James V. Jones, was not wearing bright clothes and his bicycle light might not have been fully functional. This was in stark contrast to the police report which provided evidence of James wearing a bright yellow bicycle uniform and having a working headline and red LED flasher on the back of his bike. Evidence of the intoxication by Luke Harrison Waldrop was also overlooked and inaccurately reported by the defense attorney. Despite a court-ordered subpoena for a blood test, Luke Harrison Waldrop refused to submit to a blood test after failing the field sobriety tests.
- The District Attorney’s Office dropped felony first-degree homicide by vehicle and driving under the influence to allow the accused to plea to two misdemeanors: second-degree homicide by vehicle and (2) improper passing. For killing James V. Jones, the punishment received by Luke Harrison Waldrop was 24 months probation, $1,500 fine plus surcharges, + defensive driving school.
- At the hearing on the Marcy’s Law violation, Ms. Gonzalez claimed that Ms. Wilson was not entitled to notice of the plea since she was not the spouse of the deceased. However, Judge Stephens later ruled that Ms. Wilson was the common law wife of James Jones and therefore entitled to notice under Marcy’s law.
- The District Attorney’s office did not address their failure to correct the inaccurate factual background that was proffered prior to the Court accepting the plea.
- An Order was entered by the Court on November 21, 2023 finding that the District Attorney’s Office violated Marsy’s Law.
- State v. Michael Lareco Daniel (click on link for additional information)
- The Defendant was charged with rape, incest, and child molestation.
- The case was set for trial starting on April 17, 2023, but the District Attorney’s Office failed to properly subpoena the forensic interview. The defense announced ready and the Court announced the District Attorney’s Office needed to get the witness subponed and available for trial. The prosecutor seemed unwilling to require the forensic interviewer despite the fact she had received a subpoena that day for later in the week. The Court indicated the case needed to proceed. Quite surprisingly, the prosecutor then announced that he was going to dismiss the case and apparently decided they would not attempt to re-indict him on the same charges. The Court record reflects no involvement of the victim or her family in this colloquy involving the dismissal of serious felony charges.
- On May 11, 2023, the victim’s mother filed a Motion for Hearing on Marsy’s Law Violation and Motion to Recuse.
- A hearing was held on May 19, 2023. The District Attorney’s Office admitted to violating the rights of the movant and the minor victim. They agreed to recuse their office from the case, as well as, another case pending against the same accused. As a result, the Court has requested the District Attorney’s Office to request assistance from the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Counsel for Georgia and a special prosecutor will be assigned.
- The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Counsel for Georgia has filed a response showing that they consider the matter closed, unless and until the Court decides to reconsider its decision. The deadline for reconsideration is the Second Monday of July.
- On June 7, 2023, the alleged victim’s mother filed a Motion for Contempt against Deborah Gonzalez based on her failure to comply with the Court’s order from May 19, 2023. One of the chief complaints is the failure of Ms. Gonzalez to provide certain information regarding the case file that was ordered to be produced. Interestingly, Ms. Gonzalez is claiming she lacks “access” to the case file due to her recusal.
- State v. Nigel Burke Brown (click on link for additional information)
- The Defendant was charged with rape, false imprisonment, aggravated sodomy, and criminal trespass related to an incident in June 2022.
- The alleged victim was a homeless female who fell victim to a serial rapist.
- The case was scheduled for trial the week of May 8, 2023, but the District Attorney’s Office filed a Motion to Enter Nolle Prosequi to dismiss the charges on May 2, 2023. It was alleged that the victim could not be located and had not communicated with their office. The trial court granted the request on the same date.
- On June 12, 2023, several local attorneys filed an Entry of Appearance in the court case on behalf of the alleged victim. She has been located and is more then prepared to fully cooperate with the prosecution of Mr. Brown. Additionally, a urgent request was made to the District Attorney’s Office to file a motion to set aside the Nolle Prosequi and ask the court to place it on the June 26 calendar. In the e-mail, it was explained that this situation is very time-sensitive and the Defendant MUST be tried prior to July 10, 2023 due to the speedy trial demand asserted by Mr. Brown.
- The attorneys acting on behalf of the victim have begged District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez to stand up for this victim and be her voice against a predator who attacks the most vulnerable women of the community.
- The assigned ADA and Ms. Gonzalez, together with their victim advocates, have met with the victim in preparation for what is hopefully a jury trial within the next few weeks.
Violations in Oconee County
- State v. Carlos Alberto Mejia (click on link for additional information)
- On August 4, 2022, Carlos Alberto Mejia was arrested for a traffic accident that occurred in Oconee County on Ga. Hwy 316. Mr. Mejia was charged with (1) Driving Under the Influence, (2) Hut and Run, (3) Following Too Closely, and (4) Open Container.
- On July 27, 2023, a court notice was scheduled for Mr. Mejia to be arraigned on August 21, 2023. However, the arraignment had to be continued due to the failure of the District Attorney’s Office to file an appropriate accusation regarding Mr. Majia’s charges.
- On September 8, 2023, another court notice was scheduled for Mr. Mejia to be arraigned on October 2, 2023. Due to the failure of the District Attorney’s Office to timely file the accusation, the case was was dismissed by the District Attorney’s Office on October 2, 2023.
- A Motion was filed by the victim of the car accident on October 5, 2023 based on the District Attorney’s Office failing to comply with Marcy’s Law. A hearing was held before the Honorable Eric W. Norris. on November 1, 2023. An Order was entered by the Court on November 17, 2023 finding that the District Attorney’s Office violated Marsy’s Law.
Outline of Marsy’s Law in Georgia
The Georgia Crime Victims Bill of Rights, O.C.G.A. 17-17-1, et seq., provides individuals who are victims of certain crimes specific rights. Effective January 1, 2019, with the passage of SB 127 and SR 146 (also known as Marsy’s Law), these rights are constitutionally protected and enforced (Georgia Constitution Art. I, Sect. I, Paragraph XXX).
These rights include:
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any scheduled court proceedings or any changes to such proceedings;
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of the arrest, release, or escape of the accused;
- The right not to be excluded from any scheduled court proceedings, except as provided by law;
- The right to be heard at any scheduled court proceedings involving the release, plea, or sentencing of the accused;
- The right to file a written objection in any parole proceedings involving the accused;
- The right to confer with the prosecuting attorney in any criminal prosecution related to the victim;
- The right to restitution as provided by law;
- The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; and
- The right to be treated fairly and with dignity by all criminal justice agencies involved in the case.
- The right to file a motion in the criminal case within 20 days of a court proceeding requesting to be heard if the victim has properly requested notification and is not given notice of said court proceeding.
The Crime Victims Bill of Rights specifically applies to victims of the following crimes:
- Assault and Battery
- Kidnapping, False Imprisonment and related offenses
- Reckless Conduct
- Cruelty to Children
- Stalking/Aggravated Stalking
- Cruelty to a Person 65 Years of Age or Older
- All Sexual Offenses
- Arson, Bombs and Explosives
- Forgery, Deposit Account Fraud, Illegal Use of Financial Transaction Cards, Other Fraud Related Offenses, Computer Crimes, & Identity Theft
- Sale or Distribution of Harmful Materials to Minors
- Elder Abuse
- Homicide by Vehicle
- Feticide by Vehicle
- Serious Injury by Vehicle
In general, after the crime occurs and is reported, and upon initial contact with a victim, any criminal justice agency, meaning an arresting law enforcement agency, custodial authority, investigating law enforcement agency, prosecuting attorney, and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, is responsible for advising him or her of the following:
- That it is possible that the accused may be released from custody prior to trial;
- That victims have certain rights during various stages of the criminal justice system;
- That victims have the right to refuse or agree to be interviewed by the accused, the accused’s attorney, or anyone who represents or contacts you on behalf of the accused;
- That additional information about these stages can be obtained by contacting the pertinent state and/or local agency involved, or by contacting the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at 404-657-1956;
- That victims may be eligible for monetary compensation for certain out-of-pocket losses incurred as a result of their victimization from the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program administered by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at 404-657-2222 or 1-800-547-0060;
- That victims may have available to them community-based victim service programs and that more information may be obtained by contacting the Georgia Call Line at 1-800-GEORGIA (1-800-436-7442) to connect to other services.
- That after an offender enters the prison system, the victim, or victim’s family member, can contact the Parole Board to give views and information about the case, find out what the Board is doing on the case, and request notification of any parole decisions. More information can be obtained about the post adjudication process by contacting the Georgia Office of Victim Services at 404-651-6668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.