Local News

Crime Victims Call for Changes in 194-Year-Old Law

Posted March 21, 1999

— Many people complain that criminals have all of the rights and victims get nothing. Now, those victims say they cannot even get the financial help they need to get back on their feet.

Sylvia Cassidy of Newport was shot and killed by her boyfriend. Her mother asked the State Victims Compensation Fund for money to bury her daughter.

Her request was turned down because at the time of the murder, Cassidy was living with her boyfriend, violating a 194-year-old state law against cohabitation.

Many say the law needs to be changed to protect all victims.

Kenny Vaughn was shot 21 times in his own driveway by a mentally ill intruder in 1995. He did not think he would live, but he survived.

Now, he speaks out for victims' rights. He thinks Cassidy's case is just one more example of victims not getting what they deserve.

"It makes me real angry, and it makes me hurt for the victim," Vaughn says.

Catherine Smith heads the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network. She says it is time for a change.

"It's a revictimization, unfortunately, by the system once again," says Smith.

House Bill 290 would give the Victims Compensation Commission more discretion.

"We wholeheartedly support that and will fight over in the legislature until it is ratified and becomes law," says Smith.

Vaughn racked up huge medical bills and lost his high-paying sales job as a result of the shooting. But he only received about $7,500 dollars from the Victims Compensation Fund. He says it was too little, too late.

"I've even had people tell me that my wife could have been compensated more if I was dead,' says Vaughn. "That's pretty bad."

TheCrime Victims Compensation Fundpaid out more than $3 million to more than 1,000 victims in 1997 and 1998. Since 1994, 43 claims have been denied because the victim was living with a person of the opposite sex.

Commission members say they also want the law changed to give them more flexibility in awarding claims.

The Crime Victims Compensation Fund covers medical expenses, lost wages and replacement services like day care.

Under the law, the most any person can collect is $20,000. Victims, dependents and lawyers of victims are eligible.

If the victim was killed as a result of the crime, the family is also eligible for $3,500 dollars to cover funeral expenses.

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