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Victims' Rights Advocates Pushing Legislature for Action

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RALEIGH — Dozens of people gathered at the state legislative building Thursday to speak out about victims' rights. A constitutional amendment that would guarantee those rights is stalled in the state House, but another version has come to life in the Senate.

In November 1996, 78 percent of voters passed an amendment giving crime victims rights, but the General Assembly still has not passed enabling legislation. In the House, lawmakers are stalled over whether or not to include domestic violence victims in the bill. Thursday, the Senate took the reins.

"Our number one priority has always been for this session passage of enabling legislation concerning the victims' rights amendment," said Rex Gore, president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys, addressing lawmakers. "So, we're happy to see you doing this."

The Senate Judiciary Committee has crafted its own version of the bill, giving victims the right to be informed and involved in all court proceedings. It also gives them the right to collect restitution from defendants.

Wake County Clerk of Court John Kennedy told lawmakers, "The biggest stick we've got to make these people pay the restitution is the fact that they may go to prison for not paying."

Restitution is a big issue in the General Assembly. Much of Thursday morning was spent discussing that. It would consist of payment for property damages, medical bills and funeral expenses. Currently, victims must file a civil lawsuit in order to get compensation for those expenses.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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