Marsy’s Law for Georgia Adds Three New Members to Advisory Board
Pierce Blitch, Derek Marchman, and Sheriff Gregory Countryman join the board of established legal experts and victim advocates to elevate victims’ rights across Georgia
ATLANTA – July 14, 2022 - Marsy’s Law for Georgia is honored to announce that three new members have joined the organization’s Advisory Board, including attorney and former Augusta Assistant District Attorney Pierce Blitch; 2022 recipient of the Crime Victims’ Rights Award from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVA) and Marchman Consulting president Derek Marchman; and Muscogee County Sheriff Gregory Countryman. Prior to being Augusta’s Assistant Attorney from 2013-2016, he served as an assistant solicitor general in the Richmond County Solicitor General’s Office and is now a practicing attorney with Fleming & Nelson, LLP. As a former prosecutor, Blitch has consoled and reassured numerous victims when bringing their perpetrators to justice. Blitch is also a member of the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Augusta and active with the Southern States Police Benevolent Association, helping law enforcement not only understand the law but also build compassion to better do their jobs.
“Oftentimes, victims are hesitant to testify or press charges for fear of retribution, but nothing compares to their fear when their attacker is on the verge of release from prison. That’s why Marsy’s Law is so important — giving victims a voice to let the judicial system know how the crime and perpetrator have impacted their lives,” said Blitch. “And I am happy to do whatever I can to amplify their voices so that they can feel safe.”
Derek Marchman, president of judicial and victims’ programs consulting firm Marchman Consulting in Conyers, received the 2022 Crime Victims’ Rights Award from the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in April. Marchman has developed and implemented victims’ rights programs for more than 30 years — not only in the state of Georgia but nationwide.
“To me, victims’ rights is common sense,” said Marchman. “The great thing about Marsy’s Law is that it is putting victims’ rights on the forefront and becoming second nature for judges and prosecutors to stop and ask if the victim is being served when trying a case. Victims’ rights are more than a movement, they are an institution.”
As a 30-year law enforcement professional, Sheriff Gregory Countryman is the highest ranking Black law enforcement officer in Muscogee County and served for 16 years as the elected Marshal of Muscogee County prior to being elected Sheriff in 2020. Countryman is community-minded and is active in many organizations such as the Georgia Marshal Training Network, National Organization of Black Law Executives, the Police Benevolent Society, and more as well as co-founding “Yes” Teen Summit, an organization to help teens say “yes” to success by providing life skills to impressionable youths learning to become young adults.
“Law enforcement to me is more than putting away criminals,” said Countryman. “It’s about serving the community and doing what’s right by the victim. Getting involved with Marsy’s Law for Georgia is another way for me to help bring a little bit of peace to those who have been affected by a violent crime.”
The advisory board was formed following Marsy’s Law passing in November 2018 and continues to expand its mission across the state with the support from some of the most accomplished victims’ rights advocates and legal experts in Georgia. Now that the Criminal Record Responsibility Act (CRRA) has been signed into law, the group’s work will focus on collaborative projects like creating an automated victim notification (AVN) system throughout the state.
“Our goal is to fill the board with members who can discuss every aspect of crime victims’ rights,” says Brad Alexander, Marsy’s Law for Georgia representative. “In this country, everyone is familiar with Miranda Rights, which focuses on the alleged criminal during their arrest — and while that’s important — we need to shift our focus so that victims are given equal representation and a voice. These select individuals are just the group to help with that cause.”
Blitch, Marchman, and Countryman join other current Advisory Board Members: Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council (PAC) of Georgia Director of Communications Carla Rieffel Bozeman (Atlanta, GA), PAC Director of Victim Services Dr. Rita Davis-Cannon (Atlanta, GA), James Bates Brannan & Groover Attorney Christopher Gordon (Macon, GA), Isenberg & Hewitt Partner Melvin Hewitt (Atlanta, GA), University of Georgia School of Law Professor and Jane W. Wilson Family Justice Clinic Director Christine Scartz (Athens, GA), Crime Victims Advocacy Council Program Director Candace Sims (Atlanta, GA), Haven of Light International CEO Kimya Motley (Rockdale, GA) and victims’ rights advocate Beverly Muhammad (Decatur, GA).
About Marsy’s Law for Georgia
In 2018, Marsy’s Law amended the Georgia State Constitution to include a Bill of Rights for victims of violent crimes during criminal proceedings. The constitutional amendment received broad support and assures rights for victims, including standing to petition a court if they feel that their rights have been violated. Georgia is one of the numerous states across the country that have added Marsy’s Law to their constitutions in recent years. To learn more about Marsy’s Law Georgia, visit www.victimsrightsga.com. Victims and supporters interested in sharing their stories can email [email protected].
About Marsy’s Law
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.
For more information on Marsy’s Law for All, please visit www.marsyslaw.us.