By Andy Sheehan

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The victims of violent crime say they often feel re-victimized when the criminal justice system lets them down, but a new bill is aiming to level the field.

“They’re the injured people coming into a system that should protect and serve them, and when it fails them that violation feels sometimes just as worse as the actual crime itself,” said Jennifer Storm, a Pennsylvania victim’s advocate.

It’s called Marsy’s Law, named after a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. A week after her death, the family walked into a grocery store and were confronted by the accused murderer, unaware he’d been released on bond.

“It wasn’t that victim’s choice to be victimized in the first place. So they shouldn’t be re-victimize over and over in the criminal justice system. We need to start taking their needs and their situation into account,” said state Sen. Guy Reschenthaler.

Sen. Reschenthaler, who is sponsoring the bill, says if it passes in two consecutive legislative sessions, it will be placed on the ballot as a referendum in 2019 to amend the state Constitution.

The law would then require that the family of victims:

  • Receive notification of proceedings in their criminal cases
  • Be present at court proceedings
  • Be heard at plea and sentencing proceedings

The nation learned how powerful that testimony can be at sentencing of ex-USA gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar, with the painful recounting of his alleged victims.

The bill also has the support of Kristi Lane Scott, who, as KDKA told you last week, was a child when she and her sister witnessed the murder of their mother and grandmother by her estranged father. She wasn’t called to testify at his sentencing.

“Kristi is the epitome of why we need Marsy’s Law here in Pennsylvania,” said Storm.