Cobb County couple pushes for enforceable rights for crime victi -, GA News Weather & Sports

Cobb County couple pushes for enforceable rights for crime victims

Elaine and Gordon Rondeau, supporters of Marsy's Law. Photo source: WGCL Elaine and Gordon Rondeau, supporters of Marsy's Law. Photo source: WGCL

When Gordon and Elaine Rondeau’s daughter was murdered, they learned that in the court system, loved ones of crime victims have fewer rights than accused killers.

It was like pulling teeth, they said, trying to get information about upcoming hearings in the case.

"As victims, we are not considered a party,” said Gordon Rondeau. “We are, in fact, an afterthought to the process."

The Rondeaus are among several Georgia families trying to convince state lawmakers to strengthen the state’s Crime Victim Bill of Rights. House Resolution 1199 would enshrine victims’ rights into the state constitution, giving crime victims the standing to seek a remedy if their rights are overlooked in the criminal justice system.

The Rondeaus’ daughter Renee was 29 years old and living in Chicago in 1994 when she was attacked and murdered one night as she returned home to her apartment in an upscale neighborhood.

A jury eventually found Andre Griggs and Benita Johnson guilty of Renee’s murder. Griggs is serving life in prison. Johnson is serving 60 years.

“I wake up in the morning, and I see her (Renee) with her toe tag on in the morgue with her long hair," Elaine Rondeau said as she fought back tears.

In the years since their daughter’s murder, the Rondeaus have made it their mission to help victims of crimes. They were relieved when Marsy's Law was passed in California and in Illinois -- where their daughter was killed -- granting enforceable rights for crime victims. Now the Rondeaus are part of an effort to get Marsy’s Law passed in Georgia. 

Marsy’s Law was named after Marsy Nicholas, a University of California Santa Barbara student, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, Marsy’s mother walked into a grocery store after visiting her daughter’s grave and was confronted by the accused murderer. She had no idea that he had been released on bail.

Georgia is among several states where Marsy’s Law is under consideration.

In order for the measure to become a constitutional amendment in Georgia, it would need a two-thirds majority in the legislature, plus the governor’s signature to put it on the ballot. If that happens, it would then be up to voters to decide whether to amend the constitution to protect victims’ rights.

The measure currently is under consideration in a House committee.

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