JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After 35 years as a prosecutor in Duval County, Bernie de la Rionda knows the pain of those who have lost loved ones to murder.
He is backing a proposal called Marsy's Law that would give the victims of violent crime and their families rights equal to the accused. The law would give victims the rights to be informed of bail and hearings, and the right to be present and heard, if the judge allows.
The Constitutional Revision Commission is to vote Monday whether or not Proposal 96 will appear on the November ballot.
"What I think this new constitutional amendment provides is equal footing," De la Rionda said. "In terms of victims and victim’s families are going to be up there equal to the defendant in his rights ... which I think is awesome.”
De la Rionda spoke one day after eight people were indicted on first-degree murder charges in connection with seven murder cases in Jacksonville, some for killings dating back two years.
”Never give up hope, because there are people out there who are fighting for you," de la Rionda said Friday. "When I meet victim’s families for the first time, I sit down and pray with them. I tell them to never give up. To be patient. And that the criminal justice system does work."
One of the victim's family members is Michael Liles, who took over as executive director of the Justice Coalition one year after his wife was beaten to death in their home.
Liles had told a Justice Coalition gathering earlier this week about the need for transparency and inclusion in the legal process.
”To be heard, at relevant and all crucial stages when a criminal proceeding occurs," Liles said. "That shouldn’t have to be a law; that should be common sense."
Another high-profile case in yesterday's indictments include the murders of Jacksonville toddler Aiden McClendon, the unintended victim of a drive-by shooting that targeting a relative in 2016.
"I think until you've been a victim or you've had a family member be a victim, you don't really realize the impact this law will have," de la Rionda said.
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