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Sen. Whitney Westerfield plans to appeal circuit court ruling on Marsy’s Law to Kentucky Supreme Court

By Mark Maynard
Kentucky Today

State Sen. Whitney Westerfield said he will appeal a Franklin County judge’s ruling that orders election officials in Kentucky not to certify results of a referendum on whether to change the state’s constitution to guarantee the rights of crime victims.

Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate ruled Monday that the measure, known as “Marsy’s Law,” was not worded clearly enough for voters.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, said he will appeal a judge’s ruling on “Marsy’s Law” to the Kentucky Supreme Court. (LRC photo)

“The electorate cannot be expected to vote on a Constitutional amendment of which they are not adequately informed of the substance,” Wingate’s order explained.

Westerfield, a Republican from Hopkinsville and the bill’s sponsor, was critical of the ruling and is committed to making the law happen.

“I profoundly disagree with this determination and will seek transfer of the inevitable appeal directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court,” Westerfield said in a statement. “As the sponsor of SB 3, I have worked tirelessly to elevate the voice of crime victims within the criminal justice system as a constitutional right, and I am steadfastly committed to this cause regardless of today’s ruling.

“I remain confident that SB 3 will be incorporated into the Kentucky Constitution by the voters of the Commonwealth.”

The measure, as written and if approved by voters, would have added 10 new rights for crime victims under the Kentucky Constitution.

The ruling means Kentucky voters will still cast ballots on the question, and election officials can count them. But the judge has ordered officials not to certify the results until after appellate courts have ruled.

Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is aware of the order, according to her office.

The ballot measure had enjoyed successful passage in the 2018 legislation session following heavy lobbying from Westerfield and others. Because it changes the constitution, however, it requires voter approval in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers filed the challenge to the commonwealth’s version of the law, saying the General Assembly’s wording was “insultingly vague and grossly misleading”

The measure is named after a California college student killed in the 1980s. Five other states are expected to vote on the law in the November midterms elections.

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