Being Part of Something Bigger

The news just broke that a crime victims bill of rights measure will go on the Florida ballot in November. For many years we worked on the Marsy’s Law project, doing interviews and documenting many parts of the campaign. Part of being a visual storyteller is that every story is different and some have more impact than others. This is not an easy subject to write about, a difficult battle is being fought, to combat a terrible tragedy that families can face, after an unimaginable atrocity has been committed. Here is a little more about the project and our approach. 



Marsy’s Law was named after Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a beautiful, vibrant college student, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, her mother and brother, walked into a grocery store after visiting Marsy’s grave and were confronted by the accused murderer. The family had no idea that he had been released on bail. They were not informed Marsy’s murderer had been released because the courts and law enforcement, though well-meaning, had no obligation to keep the victim’s family informed. 



Criminals have more than 20 individual rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution but the surviving family members of murder victims have none. Marsy’s mother and her brother Dr. Henry Nicholas organized a campaign to give crime victims and their families constitutionally protected rights in the state of California. Granbery Studios was asked to provide a visual record of the campaign.



We traveled with along the campaign trail from Orange County to Sacramento. From rallies to fundraisers, to town hall meetings, we took photos and videos of them spreading the word and raising awareness. Launching a new initiative to add a constitutional amendment, is a grueling process and especially in this case, absolutely emotionally draining. The people behind the movement are victims of horrific crimes, driven by unspeakable loss. Their passion to enact change is fueled by intensely painful, life-changing events. They are at the same time, both devastated and dauntless warriors. It was our job to capture the images, that tells the story of their fight for victims rights.



We also documented the victims’ and their families’ personal stories of tragedy. We respectfully and carefully interviewed many, many grief-stricken survivors. Each had their own harrowing tales, first of the tragic crime that forever changed their lives and then of the feelings of frustration and helplessness within a criminal justice system that had no system of support for the survivors. With sensitive compassion, we strove to give them back the voice that was taken from them.



The video below is a short version of a longer compilation that was created from these interviews.


No parent ever wants to lose their child, no parent who has lost their child should ever have to feel marginalized by the justice system, or worse unexpectedly confronted by their child’s released, accused murderer.



Marsy’s Law includes 17-separate rights granted to victims and their families; some of the key provisions include:

  • Parole: Victims are to be informed of all parole procedures, and they may participate in the parole process
  • Victim Involvement: Victims have the right to be notified of proceedings, and, upon request, to be heard
  • Bail:  Victims have the right to have their safety – and the safety of their family – taken into consideration before a decision is made to fix the amount of bail, as well as other release conditions for a defendant.
  • Restitution:  Anyone suffering a loss as a result of criminal activity has the right to seek restitution from those convicted of the crime that caused the loss
  • Extradition, Arrest:  Victims can request that they be notified about an upcoming arrest
  • Marsy’s Card:  Victims are to be informed of all 17 of their rights under Marsy’s Law; printed on wallet-sized cards



“If any good can come of something this horrible – the loss of my sister and the losses of other families of crime victims – it is that these violent acts served as a catalyst for change,” Dr. Nicholas said. “Marsy’s Law will provide for a more compassionate justice system for crime victims in California and make that a constitutional guarantee. Now the momentum can be put behind a U.S. Constitutional Amendment so that the rights of all crime victims, anywhere in America, can be protected.”



Granbery Studios is proud to have had a part in communicating the message of the Marsy’s Law movement in both stills and video.


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