Legislative Package To Address Domestic Violence

By contributor,

A comprehensive Domestic Violence legislative package aimed at addressing domestic violence and increasing the penalties against repeat, violent batterers was filed by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, State Senator Karen Spilka, State Representative Carolyn Dykema, and State Representative Kate Hogan today.

The three crucial bills; An Act Providing for the Release of the Body of a Deceased Person to Family Members; An Act Providing for Protection from DV; and An Act to Permit the Setting of Both Cash Bail and Pretrial Conditions in Domestic Violence Matters; would reform and strengthen currently existing laws against repeat batterers and provide additional safeguards to victims of domestic violence.

“These three bills address significant gaps in our ability to properly serve victims of domestic violence and ensure that victims of repeat, violent domestic batterers are protected to the fullest of our abilities,” District Attorney Leone said. “I’m proud to stand with Senator Spilka, Representative Dykema, and Representative Hogan as partners in our attempts to better serve and protect those who are victimized and seriously impacted by the traumatizing effects of domestic violence.”

"Domestic Violence is an unfortunate reality for too many families in Massachusetts,” said Representative Dykema (D-Holliston). “I’m proud to be working with DA Leone to sponsor this legislation that will provide more legal tools to ensure justice for victims.”

“This is a comprehensive package that will go far to address many of the issues unfortunately faced by too many of our citizens,” stated Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “I assisted the family of Heather Alleyne as they struggled to lay their daughter to rest, and my heart broke. We must ensure that no family has to endure that again. In addition, we must continue to do all we can to assist the victims of domestic violence, men and women who often don’t know where to turn, feel they have no voice, or are fearful for their lives. I am honored to be working on such worthwhile legislation with DA Leone, Representative Dykema, and Representative Hogan.”

“The passage of "Heather's Bill" is one of my legislative priorities this session,” Representative Hogan (D-Stow) said. “The inability of the Marcheterre's to bury their daughter, due to legal objections by her alleged murderer/husband, was an added tragedy no grief stricken family should ever have to bear. This bill will bring a measure of peace to the Marcheterre family and we will honor Heather Alleyne's memory with its enactment.”

An Act Providing for the Release of the Body of a Deceased Person to Family Members addresses the attendant issues discovered in the aftermath of the domestic violence murder of Heather Alleyne, 19, of Framingham. Heather was allegedly murdered by her husband on August 9, 2010. The defendant, Kyle Alleyne, refused to allow Heather’s body to be released to her family, the Marcheterres, for burial, causing the family incredible angst and frustration because Heather’s accused killer still had control over her body as her next of kin, despite being charged with her murder. This bill would exclude the next of kin charged with the murder of a deceased victim from the order of priority of those to whom the decedent can be released. The bill also addresses an issue that was discovered regarding the source of payment of legal fees and bail in the Mortimer Family murder. In this case, Thomas Mortimer is alleged to have killed his wife, his two young children, and his mother-in-law on June 16, 2010 in Winchester. Mortimer has since sought to use his children’s college fund to pay for his legal fees and bail. This bill would prevent a person charged with murder from accessing a family victim’s estate for their legal defense fees.

The second bill filed today, An Act Providing for Protection from DV, creates a new aggravated assault and battery charge for repeat offenders which will be a felony punishable by up to five years in state prison where the victim is a household or family member and where the defendant has previously been convicted of certain enumerated crimes, which include sexual crimes and crimes that cause serious bodily injury. This bill also amends the existing aggravated assault and battery statute to also include no contact orders issued as a condition of bail as an aggravating factor.

The third bill, An Act to Permit the Setting of Both Cash Bail and Pretrial Conditions in Domestic Violence Matters, was first filed by Senator Spilka last session and is now filed for the second time. This bill would allow for cash bail to be set by a Judge under the domestic violence bail statute. Currently, the statute does not allow for the setting of both a cash bail and conditions in DV cases. Rather, it only provides the setting of pretrial conditions of release or cash bail, resulting in a judge choosing whether to impose a cash bail or pretrial conditions of release. Because the purpose of setting a cash bail is to address a defendant’s flight risk and the setting of conditions is to ensure the safety of the victim, witnesses, and the community, two completely different purposes, a judge should be authorized to address both purposes regardless of the statute under which bail is imposed.

Secondly, this bill would allow for revocation of bail if, after a hearing, it is determined that the conditions set have been violated. Currently, there is no explicit provision providing for the revocation of bail upon violation of the conditions set, despite public perception. This bill would fix both gaps in our current laws that are crucial to victims and public safety.

In addition to these three bills, Representative Dykema and DA Leone also filed a bill to target repeat violators of restraining orders. An Act Providing Protection from Subsequent Restraining Order Violations increases the penalty for those convicted of violating an active restraining order, where they have been previously convicted of violating a restraining order. Currently, there is no increased penalty for repeat, convicted violators of restraining orders.

For members of the public who would like to voice their support of these bills, they are urged to contact their local representatives, who can be found by using the following link: http://www.wheredoivotema.com