Mother of Drunk Driving Victim Supports Amendment 6

Linda Beni's daughter, Brittany, was killed by a drunk driver. Linda published an opinion-editorial in the Fort Myers News-Press detailing her support for Marsy's Law titled "Amendment 6 protects victims like my daughter." Read the full article here.

Amendment 6 protects victims like my daughter

In December 2016, I drove by the aftermath of a tragic car collision on my way to the gym and said a prayer for the victims. Eight hours later, I learned my daughter, Brittany, was one of those victims.

She had been killed along with her friend, Wesley. The series of unjust events that happened next showed me just how little crime victims and their families are protected in Florida. That’s why I am voting for Amendment 6, also known as Marsy’s Law for Florida.

Ten agonizing months passed before the driver of the car, who had allegedly been drinking, was arrested. This man fled the scene. He not only left Brittany and Wesley to die, but actually dragged Wesley’s body out of the car, removed his identification and jewelry, and tried to make it look like Wesley had been driving. Someone saw him leaving the scene and this man threatened him to stay silent. Fortunately, the witness came forward and the police were able to make an arrest.

The state attorney decided to offer the killer a plea deal, which should have been presented to the victims’ families. However, the state attorney decided – without consulting with us – the families wouldn’t want to go through a trial because it would be too traumatic. We vehemently disagreed and went to the media. Twenty-four hours later, the judge on the case revoked the plea and took it off the table. But what happens to those families who are not able to stand up for themselves? Who will protect them?

Marsy’s Law is the answer to the obstacles crime victims and their families face every day. Amendment 6 would give us true equality in the eyes of the law by balancing our needs with those of the accused and of the state. It’s that simple.

It’s been almost two years since my daughter was killed, and I just want this nightmare to be over. We go to court every month and each time we are told the case will go to trial within the next six months to a year. I want my day in court. I know that will help me finally begin to heal. It hurts to know the person who killed Brittany and Wesley is protected more than the surviving family members. After everything we’ve been through, it feels like we continue to be victimized by the justice system.

Marsy’s Law would not affect the eventual sentencing decision. It would not mean the judge or jury would have to rule in my favor. The defendant’s constitutional rights will not weaken or change in any way. But Marsy’s Law would mean I would have a voice in the process, since Brittany’s voice was taken from her. All I am asking for is rights equal to the accused. Florida is one of only 15 states without clear, enforceable protections for crime victims in its constitution. It’s time for our state to step up.

Amendment 6 sends the signal to crime victims and their families that we matter. Please stand up for Brittany and vote yes on Amendment 6.

Linda Beni is a resident of Punta Gorda.