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A Brevard County judge, citing the state’s attorney’s decision not to pursue a manslaughter charge in a DUI case involving the death of a mother of six, denied a motion by members of the family to be considered victims under state law.
The five-page decision was released Wednesday by Brevard County Judge Judith Atkin and follows a March 16 hearing at the Harry and Harriette Moore Justice Center in Viera.
“The court recognizes that the survivors have suffered a horrific loss and sympathizes with their plight. However, survivors do not meet the definition of Marsy’s Law and, therefore, are not entitled to all of the rights granted to victims under the Constitutional Amendment,” Justice Atkin wrote in her order.
Brevard County prosecutors joined the defense and opposed the motion that the family of Passion Lucas, 37, killed in a DUI-related accident on June 20, 2020, should not be considered as ‘victims’ under state law.
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The statute would have granted the family a guaranteed line of communication with prosecutors about potential plea deals, court hearings, the ability to speak at sentencing and potential financial restitution in the criminal case.
The Lucas family were concerned that prosecutors would enter into a plea deal and not tell the family, and that the children would not have access to the financial claims in the case, the family’s attorney said.
Definition of “victim”
Prosecutors cited Florida’s Constitutional Amendment definition of a victim as “a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological or financial harm” as a result of a crime and argued that Passion Lucas created the danger when walking in the path of the car, according to the records. . Lucas was walking from the hospital when she was hit along Industry Road, just north of State Road 528, at around 2:20 a.m. on June 20.
Suzanna Norris, founder of Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds in Cocoa, told police she continued driving but returned to the scene where Lucas lay bloodied in the road, hospital papers strewn across the street. nearby, according to reports.
Makita Lucas, Passion Lucas’ sister, said the case dragged on until she raised her concerns on social media and Cocoa’s police chief.
Cocoa police arrested Norris in December and charged her with manslaughter in connection with Lucas’ death, leaving the scene of an accident involving death and DUI.
Prosecutors then decided not to charge Norris, who admitted driving while intoxicated, with manslaughter. Instead, Norris, whose blood alcohol level was tested at twice the legal limit of 0.08, is charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
In recent months, the same law has been used by law enforcement agencies such as the Melbourne Police Department, to convey victim status to officers involved in officer-related shootings, concealing their identities.
Continued:Melbourne police invoke Marsy’s law and won’t identify officer in Florida Tech shooting in December
A number of legal briefs have been filed with the Florida Supreme Court in hopes of seeking clarification of the law and its definition of the word “victim”.
Jessica Travis, the civil attorney for Passion Luca’s family, said she plans to appeal the order.
“I disagree with the court’s decision because the fact is that they are victims and they have rights under the Florida Constitution. For me, voters in Florida increased the rights of victims under the Constitution, it did not limit them. And the Constitution doesn’t say you’re only a victim when the state’s attorney says so or when the state files a complaint,” Travis said.
“The (Passion) family are still in pain because of Norris’ drunk driving. At the same time, while we would technically have lost our argument on paper, we won the battle. My goal was for Passion’s family to be heard by the judge because their voices were not heard by the state. It was a chance for the judge to hear his side of things.
Family members are also considering a civil suit.
Judge Atkin, who allowed Makita Lucas to speak during the hour-long hearing earlier this month, stressed that it was up to the state’s attorney not to press charges based on the information whose arranged the office.
“The Court does not have the power to modify a charge brought by the prosecutor”, because of the doctrine of the separation of powers which recognizes the absolute discretionary power of the prosecutors, underlined the judge.
Atkin, however, said that while Lucas’ family are not considered victims under Marsy’s Law, they should be informed of court proceedings and given the opportunity to speak at any sentencing if Norris is found guilty. found guilty.
The judge reserved any discussion of restitution for later. A court date for Norris has not been set.
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