Marsalee Nicholas and her parents
Marsalee Nicholas

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- There are six ballot questions this November for Nevadans to decide. Question 1 is called "Marsy's Law."

Marsy's Law get's it's name from the Masalee Nicholas case.

Marsalee was murdered by her boyfriend in 1983 in Santa Barbara, California. Her family said after the murder, they were at a grocery store when they were confronted and harassed by their daughter's killer.

The Nicholas Family did not know he had posted bond and had been released. The incident began the Nicholas family's mission to create a new law, which they call "a bill of rights for crime victims." 

Someone who said they could have benefited from Marsy's Law is Las Vegas resident Angelica Lopez. Lopez said she remembers when she began dating her former partner -- he was a professional fighter and she was in love. Lopez said that happiness quickly turned to horror. 

"To think that I'm still alive," Lopez said before her voice trailed off. "I'm sorry I don't want to cry."

Lopez said the abuse began slow with controlling behavior, then escalated to physical violence and rape. She said he lit her clothes on fire and tried to murder her.

He was charged with 22 felonies, including strangulation. For three years, Lopez said she had to fight to get him in prison.

"My case had 17 vacated court dates. I'd be subpoenaed and then I'd get a call and say, 'I'm so sorry but the defense asked for an extension.' Why that would be allowed is beyond me," she said.

"I do real estate, so I can design my own schedule but I would always think, 'What does a person with a nine-to-five do? Or someone on minimum wage who has kids?'"

The long and exhausting court process she endured is one of the reasons Lopez said she is supporting Question 1. For Lopez, she said it would have helped get her a speedier trial. A timely trial is just one of 17 expanded rights for victims under Question 1. 

Those opposed to Question 1 include the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU said they feel for victims of any crime, but that Marsy's Law would be unconstitutional. Their primary concern is for the people accused of crimes.

The ACLU said while you may not be someone who commits a crime, you could always be accused and you'd want to make sure your rights were intact. 

Another concern for the ACLU is how Question 1 defines a victim.

The law defines anyone in the proximity of a crime, or even a witness, can declare themselves a victim. The law would then allow those victims to give their opinions before a person is even found guilty. 

"Someone could run a red light or a stop sign or rear end you, and you can say you are a victim of a crime and now you can show up to every court hearing to try to convince the court system that whatever you say they should take into account," Todd Story with ACLU explained. 

"The court should not have that where someone is pleading from an emotional perspective. It needs to be justice-based decision-making."

The ACLU said the amount of (under law) victims Marsy's Law would create would bog down the court process, because every victim would have to be notified. They say it would also be costly. 

"Doing the right thing should never be cost-prohibitive," Will Batista, Marsy's Law Nevada State Director, said. 

Batista disagrees with all of the ACLU's assertions and said the ACLU has failed to prove Question 1 is unconstitutional. Batista also points to the bill's bipartisan support from sheriffs to the Attorney General. 

"This is not a political issue. It's a people issue that has a political process," he said. 

The person who is backing Question 1 financially is billionaire Henry Nicholas, Marsalee's brother. Nicholas has spent millions of his own money getting Marsy's Law passed around the country.

The problem? Nicholas was recently arrested in Las Vegas on drug trafficking charges, pending charges court dates until the day of the election.

In 2008, he was also indicted on charges of giving drugs to friends and business partners.

And because of how loosely Question 1 defines a victim, FOX5 wanted to know how many "victims" had been created from Nicholas' actions.

"I won't comment on that. I will let the courts decide," Batista said. 

A big concern for some when it comes to Marsy's Law is that it would change the state constitution. If you ask the people from Question 1 they said that's an important feature to "enshrine the right's into the state constitution," that way if a new legislature or governor comes in, they are protected. 

And that's exactly what scared the ACLU.

"If you change the constitution it'll be at least 8 years before a change can be made to it," Story says. 

But that difficult change is exactly what victims of crime want, victims like Angelica Lopez. 

"Domestic violence affects one in three women and no one speaks about it," she said. "It is so important to support our victims. If you don't support them then they won't come forward and they won't feel like they have a voice so there is no point in going to court and keeping these bad people out of our neighborhoods." 

Copyright 2018 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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