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Justice & Hope: Group seeks closure for victims and families

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

  “When your input is valued, it makes a difference,” said Marsy’s Law for Kentucky Director of Outreach Emily Bonistall Postel, while speaking at a National Justice & Hope for Crime Victims candlelight vigil last Thursday. 

Those words resonated with many at the event, including the family and friends of Justin Sexton who gathered at the event to remember their recently lost loved one. 

Justice & Hope for Crime Victims founder and president Ann Bauers (right) and Marsy’s Law advocate Emily Bonistall Postel (left) talk at a candlelight vigil last Thursday. (Photo by Jeremy D. Wells, Carter County Times)

Tabatha Sexton, Justin’s cousin, explained why her family felt it was important to come out. 

“My cousin Justin, his life was taken in his driveway,” Sexton explained, her voice cracking with emotion. “And, I think the hardest part for us is that they’ve done this to him and we don’t have him, but yet they’re still free on the streets. I don’t understand that. That’s, I think, the hardest part for the whole family, how they’re still getting to live their lives, and do everything they get to do and we don’t, we don’t get that chance anymore.” 

While the Sexton family’s loss is still fresh – it had been less than two weeks since his untimely death as a result of a hit-and-run incident in the driveway of his home – others have been seeking justice for years. 

Postel explained that she lost her cousin to a violent crime in 2005. That prompted her to become a victims’ advocate, including working towards getting a victims’ rights law, dubbed Marsy’s Law, passed in Kentucky. 

“Marsy’s Law for Kentucky is an effort to provide constitutionally protected rights for crime victims here in the state of Kentucky,” she said. “Right now all of our rights are in the Victim’s Bill of Rights in statutory law, and we have no rights for crime victims protected at the constitutional level. So, in November, Marsy’s Law will be back on the ballot and Kentucky voters will have the chance to say ‘yes,’ that this is something that we feel passionately about and we need to support crime victims in this way.” 

Some of those rights would include the rights of family to be informed when the perpetrator of a crime was released. 

“The right to notification,” Postel clarified. “So, to know about hearings, to know about proceedings in a case. The right to be heard. The right to consult with the Commonwealth’s attorney or their representative. The right to have the victim’s safety considered when setting bail. Basic, basic rights that I’m finding most folks think these are already rights that are protected at the constitutional level, but they’re not. So, the biggest difference with Marsy’s Law is that these would be enforceable, because they would be protected at the constitutional level. So, if a victim’s rights were violated, there would actually be a standing to be able to assert those rights and enforce them.” 

The entire text of the proposed law is available to read online at victimsrightsky.com. 

Rhonda Barker, VP of Justice & Hope for Crime Victims spoke about some of the other local victims of crime whose names were included on signs around the park during the event. 

“Lilly Ann, she was a three-year-old little girl who, her mother took her to Lexington, left her with her caregiver, a baby sitter, and she suffered injuries and passed away (under) the care of the babysitter while her mother was gone. That’s a case in Lexington that they’re seeking prosecution on and just recently made an arrest on. So we’re seeing some justice for Lilly now,” Barker explained. 

She said Richie was another local who had died tragically, possibly as a result of tainted marijuana, but that she was unclear on the details of his case. She said she had heard that an arrest had recently been made in his case as well. So, she noted, there is always hope for families. 

You can learn more about National Justice & Hope for Crime Victims by visiting their Facebook page.

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com

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