The devastating story behind Marsy's Law

Marsy with parentsMarsalee (Marsy) Ann Nicholas was born on March 6, 1962 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Marcella and Henry T. Nicholas II. A few years after she was born, Marsy, her brother Henry, and her mother Marcella moved to California.

Marsy was described to have a heart of gold -- she loved working with animals, was a talented artists and was going to schoolMarsy with family to become a special education teacher.

Prior to her graduation, on November 30, 1983, that Marsy was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend. She was 21 years old.

Kerry Conley, her boyfriend of five years was a carpenter who lived in makeshift quarters he fixed up in his parents' Malibu backyard. Described as a manipulating, intimidating presence -- her brother, the driving force behind Marsy's law, has said that he "knew Kerry was bad news" from the beginning. 

Marsy finally broke up with Conley around Thanksgiving. Five days later, he talked her into coming to his shack in the middle of the night. He shot her in the face with shotgun. She lived four hours, during which time her brother, Henry Nicholas, came to see her in the hospital -- an episode that caused Nicholas nightmares for years.

Only one week after her murder and on the way home from the funeral service, Marsy’s family stopped at a market to pick up a loaf of bread. It was there, in the checkout line, that Marsy’s mother, Marcella, was confronted by her daughter’s murderer. Having received no notification from the judicial system, the family had no idea he had been released on bail mere days after Marsy’s murder.

Conley was ultimately convicted and received a life sentence with the possibility of parole. Every two or three years, Nicholas and his parents would have to drive to Soledad for the parole hearing, and make their case to a parole board. On one of those trips to Soledad, the stress reportedly "broke Henry's mother" and she suffered from a heart attack. She survived, but the stress and trauma of the parole process remained. Conley ultimately died in prison.

This tragedyPicture of Marsy next to mother and brother brought into the forefront the lack of protection family of victims had under the U.S. Constitution.

The Marsy’s Law initiative began in California led and sponsored by Marsy’s brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III. When it passed in November 2008, Proposition 9, The California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law, became the strongest and most comprehensive Constitutional victims’ rights laws in the U.S. and put California at the forefront of the national victims’ rights movement.

Now, Dr. Nicholas is now lending his support to equal crime victims’ rights efforts across the United States. Since Marsy’s Law passed in California, it has been overwhelmingly approved by voters in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Currently, efforts are underway in Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Tennessee.

  • Read more about Marcy here.
  • Learn more about the passage of Marsy's law here
  • Find all the Marsy's law provisions here

Portrait of Marsy©️ Information respectfully from the Marsy's Law for All website