Advocates for domestic violence victims are applauding new measures designed to provide more protection for those who need it most. As WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports, the goal is to keep potential offenders off the streets.
Over the past year, high profile murders stemming from cases of domestic violence have shocked communities in one part of the Hudson Valley. In fact, those advocating for better protections cite four homicides in the past eight months, including the February death of Jessica Welch, a woman shot to death by her husband. Police say that man, Lee Welch, then turned the gun on a Poughkeepsie police officer, killing him, before eventually shooting himself.
While there are still questions surrounding each of the four cases, advocates are stepping up their efforts to protect victims of domestic violence. On the state level, measures are making their way through both houses. State Senator Steve Saland explained those measures Monday in Poughkeepsie. He spoke to a measure that broadens the definition of a victim of domestic violence. Another measure would use stricter federal procedures when determining if those convicted of certain crimes related to domestic violence were allowed to possess or purchase a firearm.
Saland says there must be tools to use in order to do battle in cases of domestic violence.
One measure earning plenty of praise would allow judges to consider certain risk factors when determining how to move forward with a case at arraignment. Marjorie Smith is the Special Victims Bureau Chief in the Dutchess County District Attorney's office. She applauded the effort to give courts more room to keep victims safe.
With a number of tragic domestic violence cases ending in homicides, Dutchess County lawmakers looked to a citizens committee on domestic violence to make recommendations on how to keep problems from escalating. That committee's first recommendation was to give courts more leeway. So, could these measures being considered in Albany have potentially stopped these specific cases from happening? Committee Chair Leah Feldman says yes in three of the four homicides.
Dutchess County District Attorney William Grady says actions like higher bail and electronic monitoring can make a big difference.
Two of the bills described by Saland have gone to the Governor's office for approval.