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KCBS Cover Story Pt. 1: Marsy's Law On Victim's Rights Not Working For All

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) - Five years ago, California voters amended the state constitution to create a Victim's Bill of Rights. But the case of a San Francisco woman attacked outside a Bay Area Rapid Transit station raises questions about how well that law is working.

An  investigation by KCBS reporter Doug Sovern suggests this is not an isolated case.

KCBS Cover Story: Marsy's Law, Part One

A diminutive Chinese American named Jenny, nearly 30 years old, was among five or six people waiting for the bus at Bosworth and Diamond in San Francisco, late in the evening of Saturday July 27. She had just stepped off a BART train at the Glen Park station.

A station agent was in the BART booth.

Two aggressive panhandlers approached and asked for cigarettes, then money. When Jenny said she doesn't smoke, one of the beggars began to curse her out, at which time she urged the station agent to call the BART police.

"He started to stalk me, stalked me back as I was walking over to the bus depot to wait and he called out to me, he hollered, he started to make racial slurs at that time, 'hey little Asian girl, where are you going, come here'," she recounted.

"'You've got something to say, you say it to my face' was his other statement," she continued. "And then that's when he started to push me. And I pushed back, not that I wanted to fight with him but I just wanted to get him off of me. You know, get away from me. And I began to walk away but that's when he started to become a wolverine and just laid the smack down on me, pushing me, punching me, he eventually grabbed me by the hair and he yanked me down to the floor and then from there on we were in a brawl on the floor."

Jenny was also kicked in the face and her assailant bit her hand, too.

A bus pulled up, the driver called 911 and a passenger pulled the attacker off. The assailant ran away, but the cops showed up and chased him down.

"They said they were going to go ahead and charge him with felony assault," Jenny said.

The attacker was arrested and he was read his Miranda rights. An officer then handed Jenny a card.

"It's called the Marsy's Card and it's a really flimsy little sheet of paper, about the size of an index card, and on it is summarizes a victim's rights," she said.

The card summarizes the rights that every crime victim has in California, since the passage of Proposition 9, Marsy's Law, in 2008.

The law was named after Marsy Nicholas, a senior at UC Santa Barbara who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. The law expands the legal rights of crime victims to include a number of rights in the judicial process.

"It is the broadest, clearest and strongest victim's rights constitutional provision in the country," declared Meg Garvin, director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute.

Marsy's Law guarantees victims 17 rights, including notice of all legal proceedings.

"They have to affirmatively say 'I want to assert my Marsy's rights,'" added former Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, who ran the statewide campaign to pass Marsy's Law. Under the law, he says, Jenny should have been notified and allowed to address the court before any plea, sentencing or release of the defendant.

Unfortunately, she didn't have the opportunity to do so.

Doug Sovern explains what happened, in Part Two of his Cover Story series, Marsy's Law, airing Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 6:32 a.m., 8:32 a.m., 12:32 p.m. and 4:32 p.m. on 740AM & 106.9FM.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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