AKRON, Ohio -- Her face scarred, Ronda Blankenship is pushing for a constitutional amendment to protect Ohio crime victims after a nightmare crime turned into a nightmare in court.
“I don't want any victims or survivors to go through what I went through,” Blankenship said.
Blankenship’s boyfriend and his two children were killed during a 2013 robbery at her Barberton home. Blankenship survived being stabbed in the face and shot in the head.
As suspects Eric and Michael Hendon faced trial and subsequent convictions for aggravated murder, the courts forced Blankenship to turn over her personal diaries, cell phone, laptop hard drive and social media passwords at the request of the killers’ attorneys.
Blankenship said she felt re-victimized.
“That hurts. And if I felt that way, I wouldn't want anyone else to feel that way,” she said.
At a press conference Wednesday, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh voiced support for a constitutional amendment that would add an Ohio crime victims’ bill of rights to expand protections for victims like Blankenship.
Deemed Marsy’s Law for Ohio, the effort is part of a push in several states honoring Marsy Nicholas, who was killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend. A week after the murder, her family saw the accused killer when they walked into a grocery store. They were unaware he had been released on bail.
“Marsy's Law guarantees basic rights for crime victims,” Bevan Walsh said. “It makes sure they're treated with dignity, respect, and fairness.”
The law would give crime victims the right to be notified about court proceedings and the release of defendants. Victims could also give input on plea deals and be heard during every step of the justice process.
“There are hundreds of rights that crime victims have that they're not aware of and that are not being enforced,” said Cathy Harper Lee, Director of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center.
Under the proposed amendment, victims like Blankenship would have legal backing to fight back and file a motion with the court if their rights are being violated or ignored.
“This means a lot to me because if I can help change something to make it better, I will be here,” she said.
Supporters are canvassing neighborhoods to collect more than 300,000 signatures needed by July to place the proposed amendment on the November ballot.