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Violence on Congress' Agenda
June 6, 2007

Congress is addressing a number of issues that relate to domestic and sexual violence against women and children. A Senate subcommittee recently held a hearing on domestic violence, the House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, and Senators Biden (DE), Boxer (CA) and Feinstein (CA) introduced the Violence Against Children Act of 2007. Senator Biden also introduced a bill that would recruit volunteer lawyers to represent domestic violence victims.

In addition, the appropriations process is well underway and advocates are pressing hard for full funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The law includes groundbreaking initiatives to help children exposed to violence, train health care providers to support victims of abuse, encourage men to teach the next generation that violence is wrong, provide crisis services for victims of rape and sexual assault, and address the needs of Native women. It also continues efforts to improve the law enforcement response to violence and provide supportive services, such as transitional housing, to women and children forced to leave their homes because of violence. To email your Senators and Representative to urge them to fully fund VAWA, visit http://action.endabuse.org/fvpf/home/.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace Hearing
“Too Much, Too Long? Domestic Violence in the Workplace” was the topic of a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety on April 17. Domestic violence survivor and advocate Yvette Cade, Legal Momentum President Kathy Rogers, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Labor Laura A. Fortman, and employment attorney Sue K. Willman testified.

Cade, Rogers and Fortman pressed for passage of the Survivors’ Empowerment and Economic Security Act to promote the economic security of victims. The Act would keep domestic violence victims from losing their jobs because they need time off to get restraining orders. It also would make them eligible for unemployment benefits.

“Cases of abuse, stalking, harassment and homicide don’t make the nightly news, but they do end lives, hurt businesses and alarm communities,” Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) said. “Each day we get terrible reminders that domestic violence doesn’t stay at home. It follows people into their workplace – posing safety, financial, and legal problems for victims, employers and other workers. If we ignore it, the horrible toll of domestic violence in the workplace will continue unchecked. But if we confront it, I believe we can make progress.”

Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007
This legislation would expand current federal hate crime categories to protect victims of crimes that are based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability. It would also provide federal assistance when local authorities are unable or unwilling to prosecute violent crimes and establish uniform protections against hate crimes motivated by gender bias. It would require the FBI to collect statistics on gender-based crimes – a vital tool that can help expose violence against women.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 237 to 180. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “This is an important vote of conscience, a statement of what America is – a society that understands that we accept differences.” The Washington Post editorialized, “Crimes that target someone because of his or her race or sexual orientation are more than an offense against that individual. They are crimes that terrorize whole communities.”

The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the hate crimes bill soon. President Bush has warned that he will veto the legislation.

National Domestic Violence Volunteer Attorney Network Act
This groundbreaking bill would create the first national system to recruit and train volunteer lawyers and match them with domestic violence victims in need. It would be managed by the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence which would create and maintain an electronic network of volunteers and then enlist the National Domestic Violence Hotline to provide legal referrals.

“This innovative bill builds on the best of American ideals – volunteerism, technology know-how, collaboration between the private and public sectors and our unwavering commitment to justice for all,” Senator Biden said. “I know that across the country there are lawyers who want to serve their community and this bill will pave the way.”

Violence Against Children Act of 2007
This legislation is designed to create a more comprehensive approach to stopping violent crime against children. It would make it a federal crime to intentionally cause serious bodily harm to people under age 18 if the crime involves interstate commerce or travel; authorize $50 million in grants each year for states and localities to fight crimes against children and train officials to better respond to these crimes; require states to gather better statistics and report to the federal government on their method of monitoring child protective services; provide federal assistance to deal with gangs; and help local schools implement safety measures.

“In recent years, we have heard countless stories of boys and girls being killed, abused or kidnapped. These horrible crimes must be stopped,” Senator Boxer said. “Senators Biden, Feinstein and I will work to get this bill passed – there is nothing more important than the well-being of our children.”

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The White House, President George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
July 27, 2006

Fact Sheet: The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006

     Fact sheet President Signs H.R. 4472, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006

Today, President Bush Signed The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006. This law marks an important step forward in our Nation's efforts to protect those who cannot protect themselves. It will strengthen Federal laws to protect our children from sexual and other violent crimes, prevent child pornography, and make the Internet safer for our sons and daughters.

President Bush Believes Our Society Has A Duty To Protect Children From Exploitation And Danger. By enacting this law, we are sending a clear message across the country that those who prey on our children will be caught, prosecuted, and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

The Administration Has Worked To Give Law Enforcement New Tools To Go After Criminals Who Kidnap And Exploit Children.

  • The PROTECT Act. In 2003, President Bush signed the PROTECT Act that expanded the use of Amber Alerts, making grants available to all 50 States so law enforcement can quickly alert the public about missing children and their abductors.
  • Operation Predator. The Administration launched Operation Predator to help law enforcement track down and arrest foreign pedophiles, human traffickers, sex tourists, and Internet pornographers who prey on our children.
  • Project Safe Childhood. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice launched Project Safe Childhood to help Federal, State, and local law enforcement investigate and prosecute crimes against children that are facilitated by the Internet and other electronic communications.

The Adam Walsh Child Protection And Safety Act Of 2006 Builds On The Administration's Progress In Four Important Ways:

  1. Expanding The National Sex Offender Registry. The bill will integrate the information in State sex offender registry systems and ensure that law enforcement has access to the same information across the United States, helping prevent sex offenders from evading detection by moving from State to State. Data drawn from this comprehensive registry will be made available to the public so parents have the information they need to help protect their children from sex offenders.
  2. Strengthening Federal Penalties For Crimes Against Children. The bill imposes tough mandatory minimum penalties for the most serious crimes against children and increases penalties for crimes such as sex trafficking of children and child prostitution. It also provides grants to States to help them institutionalize sex offenders who have shown they cannot change their behavior and are about to be released from prison.
  3. Making It Harder For Sex Predators To Reach Our Children On The Internet. The bill authorizes new regional Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforces that will provide funding and training to help State and local law enforcement combat crimes involving the sexual exploitation of minors on the Internet.

Creating A New National Child Abuse Registry And Requiring Investigators To Do Background Checks Of Adoptive And Foster Parents Before They Are Approved To Take Custody Of A Child. By giving child protective service professionals in all 50 States access to this critical information, we will improve their ability to investigate child abuse cases and help ensure that vulnerable children are not put into situations of abuse or neglect.

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Return to this article at:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/07/20060727-7.html

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Kansas Legislative Summary:

Updates on domestic and sexual violence

The information below contains summaries of enrolled bills passed during the 2007 Kansas Legislative session. These summaries do not reflect the entirety of the statutory changes included in any one bill. Readers should consult an attorney and/or read the entire bill before relying on it for any legal actions. The full text of these bills can be found at:
www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-bills/enrolledBills.do



SB18: Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA).
PASSED AND SIGNED.

This would allow for the filing of a motion to prevent possible child abduction. This has some good pieces to it IF the abuser does not use these provisions mischievously. We have asked for two things to accompany UCAPA: (1) publishing the official comments to the Act in the statute books so practitioners can see the intent of the legislation, and (2) amending the Kansas parental kidnapping crimes. See SB182 below. Effective 07.01.07: it should include comments from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) in the Kansas statute book. NCCUSL is an organization that drafts and advocates for enactment of uniform state laws. Comments to uniform laws drafted by NCCUSL often contain clarifying information about the intent of the drafters.

SB182: Crimes concerning Interference with Parental Custody.
DID NOT PASS.

This bill would have amended the crimes of Interference with Parental Custody (K.S.A. 21-3422) and Aggravated Interference with Parental Custody (K.S.A. 21-3422a) to provide an exception and a defense for those parents who flee with their children in order to protect the child or themselves from mistreatment or abuse. The exception keeps the protective parent from being charged if she does certain things after fleeing; the defense allows her to raise the abuse as a defense if she is charged. SB182 did not pass but an interim committee met August 16 for further review.

SB31: "Elliott" fix.
PASSED AND SIGNED.

This law will allow municipal courts to charge enhanced penalty crimes that could be charged as a felony due to prior convictions. Domestic Battery is one such crime. The Elliott case, decided by the Kansas Supreme Court last year, prohibited municipal courts from charging these enhanced penalty crimes if they could be charged as a felony. As a general rule, municipal courts cannot charge felonies. We will need to watch for the impact of this new law on third-time convictions for Domestic Battery.

SB68: Anti-bullying.
PASSED AND SIGNED.

This law will require school boards to adopt policies prohibiting bullying on school property, in a school vehicle, or at a school-sponsored activity. It also requires school boards to develop and implement a plan to address bullying on or before January 1, 2008. Bullying is defined in the new law.

HB2006/HB2372/SB2: Unborn Victims of Violence Act/Alexa's Law.
PASSED AND SIGNED.

For purposes of criminal laws, "person" would include a fetus.

SB204: Kansas Offender Registration Act Amendments.
PASSED AND SIGNED.

This will amend the Kansas Offender Registration Act by adding a person convicted of Aggravated Trafficking to the definition of offender; eliminates the requirement of the KBI to send letters every 90 days to verify address, etc.; requires offenders to report to sheriff four times per year and pay a $20.00 fee per reporting.



KCSDV begins project to address the criminal justice system response to domestic violence

Governor Kathleen Sebelius was recently awarded a federal grant that will involve a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency, statewide training initiative. KCSDV is one of the grant partners and will house the Project Coordinator and three other staff funded under the project.

The Grants to Encourage Arrest Program (GTEAP), a grant program out of the Department of Justice, is designed to improve the criminal justice system's response to domestic violence. The grant will focus on training and model protocol development.

Grant partners include Governor Sebelius, KCSDV, the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, the Office of Judicial Administration, the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, and the Kansas Department of Corrections. Training initiatives will include judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, corrections officials, and victims' advocates.

For more information, contact Sara Rust-Martin, GTEAP project coordinator at KCSDV, at
srust-martin@kcsdv.org or 785-232-9784.


Utah Bill Allows Death Penalty If Child Killed In Abuse


The death of a girl who was repeatedly beaten by her own parents has lawmakers moving to invoke the death penalty against people who kill a child during the act of abuse, sexual assault or kidnapping.

The change would excuse a prosecutor from having to prove that a killer intended another's death, raising questions about whether it could overcome a court challenge.

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, cited the case of 10-year-old Shelby Andrews, who had bites and bruises on 80 percent of her body when police arrived at her Syracuse home Aug. 1. An autopsy found she died of the bruises and severe brain swelling.

The girl's father, Ryan Andrews, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison last week by a judge who expressed shock over her treatment. Andrews agreed to testify that his wife - the girl's stepmother - was to blame for much of the abuse.

Prosecutors have said they can't prove the couple intended to kill the girl and ruled out seeking the death penalty. Both were charged with first-degree murder.

Ray said Shelby Andrews' slow, horrific death showed "we need to get tougher with these monsters." His bill would make the death penalty an option in cases of "reckless indifference" to a child's life.

"I don't think we use the death penalty enough in this country," Ray said. "I'll pay for the bullets."

A House criminal justice committee agreed Monday, voting 7-2 to send the bill to the floor of the House for action.

Rep. David Litvak, D-Salt Lake City, one of the dissenters, said, "I don't think this is something we can take lightly - the expansion of the death penalty."

Paul Boyden, who heads the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, said the bill was a fundamental change in the standard of proof required for Utah's death penalty law.

He said a recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court signaled the change would be lawful, "but that's not going to make this a slam dunk."

Boyden predicted the provision would be appealed the first time prosecutors tried to use it.


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Logan's Law
 

doctor_prescription.jpgWith the Merrifields of Dunbar, N.C. child abuse is a family affair. A grand jury indicted Dr. John V. Merrifield and his wife, Diane, on one count each of gross negligence resulting in the death of two-year-old Logan Shane Goodall. The doctor was also charged on two counts of treating Logan for serious wounds and failing to report them to the proper authorities.

John and Diane Merrifield are the parents of Michael Kent Merrifield. Michael Merrifield was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, child neglect resulting in death, sexual abuse by a parent or guardian and first-degree sexual assault. He is believed to be responsible for the abuse and injuries that resulted in Logan’s death. Logan was the son of Michael Merrifield’s girlfriend, Pepper Dawn Eren.

Eren was sentenced to one to 10 years in prison for child neglect causing injury. She said she believed Michael Merrifield when he told her Logan’s injuries, including bruises, burns, and a severe wound on his scrotum, were the result of accidents. She said she also relied on information from her longtime family doctor, Dr. Merrifield, when he told her Logan’s injuries were not serious.

The indictment charges that Dr. Merrifield knew Logan was being abused because he sewed a wound on Logan’s scrotum and treated the boy for serious burns to his heels and buttocks. As a physician, Dr. Merrifield should have reported the injuries to the Department of Health and Human Resources but failed to do so. If convicted, Diane Merrifield faces up to five years in prison and fines of up to $3,000. Dr. Merrifield faces an additional 20 days in jail and additional fines if convicted.

Logan’s father Jeremy Goodall filed a lawsuit that claims that John and Diane Merrifield planned a conspiracy to protect their son, Michael, from being discovered as Logan’s abuser.

Logan’s death stirred up enough controversy in North Carolina that the Legislature passed a bill referred to as “Logan’s Law,” which lengthens jail sentences for convicted sexual predators.

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