Letters to the Editor

This is Viewpoints for Monday, Dec. 5, 2016

Marsy’s Law

If crime victims in Georgia enjoyed the same constitutional rights as criminals, my mother, Bridgette Flowers, might still be alive. I was there with her in the minivan on that fateful day in 2014 when her husband walked up, stuck a gun in the window and shot her. I saw her fall over. She had died immediately. The system failed our family, with tragic, irreparable damages.

Just days before her death, my mother’s husband, Jasento Flowers, had assaulted her in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Surveillance video caught him punching her twice in the face, leaving her unconscious. Ironically, it was Valentine’s Day. He was booked that night into the Bibb County jail and the next day released on a special conditions bond — the special condition being that he could not contact his victim. No one told my mother. She had no idea she could have him re-arrested when he called and harassed her in defiance of the bond. It usually takes 30 days for those notifications to go out. She died on Day eight.

That day, Jasento should have still been in jail. A repeat offender on parole, the jail should have placed a hold on his bond and sent him before a parole judge. Perhaps if the county had to notify the victim first, our family could have prevented his release.

Having a victims’ bill of rights in the state constitution would give teeth to the laws that require victim notification and a host of other rights. That’s what Marsy’s Law for Georgia would do.

Giving victims and their families constitutional rights puts them on equal footing with the criminals who hurt them, and my family’s story illustrates why that’s needed and proves it’s a matter of life and death.

Marsy’s Law would provide the following basic rights to crime victims:

▪  The right to receive information about their rights and services available to crime victims;

▪  The right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in their criminal case;

▪  The right to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status;

▪  The right to be present at court proceedings;

▪  The right to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized;

▪  The right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release;

▪  The right to restitution.

These rights won’t impose a new burden on the criminal justice system. After all, Georgia law already calls for victims to receive these services, but those rights currently aren’t backed up with constitutional protections, which is only way to make victims’ rights equal to those exercised by the accused and convicted. And second, this is far from an untested idea. Georgia is one of only 15 states that don’t have victims’ rights in their constitutions. On this past Election Day, strong majorities of voters in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota approved Marsy’s Law for their states.

Voters in Georgia should get their say, too. To get Marsy’s Law on the ballot in Georgia, the amendment must receive a two-thirds vote of both houses of the General Assembly. That’s a high bar to cross, but it’s an effort worth undertaking because it’s so important to overwhelmed and vulnerable victims.

Because of my family’s tragic experience, we feel an obligation to help the victims who come after us. I hope you too will join that fight. Please ask your legislators to vote “yes” to justice by voting “yes” on Marsy’s Law.

Tearro Moore,

Macon

Tom Price, really?

I am a retired health care executive and former state of Georgia health care regulatory official. I am also a Republican fiscal conservative and social liberal.

Before he began his campaign, Donald Trump was convinced the Canadian single payer system was far superior to ours and repeatedly stated this fact. His views regarding phased in expansion of Medicare to eventually cover all Americans fit nicely with mine.

But now he has decided that Rep. Tom Price should head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Price and his ilk are against Medicare, wanting to do away with it and substitute some sort of voucher system. He is also against basic well established DHHS programs such as family planning.

Price was a key congressman in what many believe to be the worst Congress in history. Price and the rest of the leadership in the House believe that any compromise with the other party to get things done to help Americans is wrong and they are proud of it.

That is why Gallup found that approval ratings for Congress are at historical lows, ranging from about 10 percent to 20 percent. The public is fed up with the inertia in Congress and ideologues, which leads me to where we are now.

We need someone who can bring the nation together. After his speech to the nation upon winning the election, I thought Trump might do so. Appointing radical right wingers like Price simply sends the wrong message.

Jack Bernard,

Peachtree City

Election not about jobs

We’re hearing many folks say the 2016 election was about jobs, especially the jobs of laid off factory workers. Let’s do the numbers. Several hundred thousand people have lost their jobs because of plant relocations to other countries and they are justifiably angry. But, their numbers compare with almost 170 million voters across the nation.

Honestly, we know that those with good jobs seldom think of those who are struggling. Deep down inside we know this election was really about social issues. My hunch is the historians will eventually identify many instances of “dog whistle” politics.

Attempts to blame the voters’ anger on jobs or even the economy are only whitewash. It’s like claiming the Civil War was about “states’ rights” instead of slavery.

Tom Louderback,

Louisville, Kentucky

Job well done

“Old Glory” got tough skin — you may be able to burn the physical component of her character but you will never extinguish the flame that burns deep in the hearts of those she protects and serves. Her significance extends beyond the stripes and stars she is so proudly adorned. As a retired Marine, I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States for which “Old Glory” embodies, but she is willing to go down in flames if necessary so that they, the beneficiaries of her sacred guarantee can exercise their constitutional right of “free speech” and the exercise thereof. Thanks “Old Glory” for a job well done.

John Haugabrook,

Warner Robins

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