Mother of Region 8 murder victim advocates for change

Mother of Region 8 murder victim advocates for change

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Ahead of the upcoming legislative session, a Region 8 mother advocates for change for crime victims.

Five years ago, Jonesboro businessman Marc Despain was found dead in his home.

Four people were convicted in the murder-for-hire case including Despain's wife and father-in-law.

Since his death, his mother Tana Despain started advocating for an amendment to Arkansas' state constitution to give crime victims more rights.

Marsy's law, in effect in about 35 other states, aims to give crime victims equal rights as those that are given to people accused of or convicted of crimes.

Despain said she believes crime victims have the right to be heard and to have proper representation.

She said the legislation that has been in place for about 20 years allows prosecutors or judges to deny rights if there is an appropriate reason to do so.

"We need something in place that can't be denied to victims," Despain said. "We need to be heard and we need to make sure victims are being represented. If there is a case where the victim has not been notified of their rights, they need recourse and standing so they have opportunities to be heard and those injustices corrected."

Despain says many victims don't know that they have rights.

"Had things been a little more different and I had an advocate that was with me over and above my victim witness coordinator, I could've make some better choices and maybe some better decisions," Despain said. "In my case, I bargained away one of my rights in a plea deal and that was to speak at the hearing when Michelle is up for parole. It was a long drawn out process and had I had what we are trying to get in place now, I could've made some better decisions."

Click here for more information on Marsy's law.

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