Stumbo seeks to protect victims

bmsugrave@herald-leader.comSeptember 23, 2009 

FRANKFORT — The mother of a Lexington woman who was allegedly gunned down by her ex-fiancé will attend a news conference Thursday to support a state legislative proposal that would allow real-time monitoring of people accused of domestic violence.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Tuesday he will likely pre-file by Thursday a bill that would allow judges to electronically track the whereabouts of people who have a domestic violence or emergency protective order filed against them. Those they are accused of endangering would wear a device that would alert them if the perpetrator was nearby.

Diana Ross, the mother of Amanda Ross, plans to attend a news conference to tout the bill, family friend Dale Emmons said.

Ross was killed Sept. 11 outside of her Lexington apartment. Former state Rep. Steve Nunn has been charged with the murder and violating a domestic violence order of protection. Nunn, a former gubernatorial candidate and son of the late Gov. Louie B. Nunn, has pleaded not guilty.

Ross sought a protective order against Nunn earlier this year and friends said that she feared for her life in the days leading up to her death.

Emmons, who is a political consultant, said Tuesday that the Ross family is backing Stumbo's proposal because they feel it could have helped save Amanda Ross's life.

"We just feel like had Amanda been given the opportunity to be aware that a predator was outside of her home on the morning she was murdered, she would have never left her house," Emmons said. "She would have called police if she needed to."

"We're hopeful that other legislators will support Greg's efforts," Emmons said.

Stumbo, who appeared Tuesday on Sue Wylie's show on WLVK 590 AM, said details of how the proposed electronic monitoring program would be administered will likely be released on Thursday.

"These will not be ordered in every case," Stumbo said.

Stumbo said he believed the proposal was constitutional even though a domestic violence order of protection is not a criminal charge. "This is not a penalty," he said. "This is restrained conduct."

At least 13 states have approved using global positioning systems to monitor offenders who violate stalking or domestic violence orders. Most recently, Ohio passed an electronic monitoring law that took effect in April.

Stumbo's bill may be one of several relating to domestic violence filed during the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.

One proposal would expand domestic violence and emergency protection orders to include dating couples. Another measure would create a state law that would ban those who have domestic violence or protection orders filed against them from possessing a firearm. There is a similar federal law, but only Jefferson County has a program in place to automatically take weapons from those with domestic violence orders.

Some in the state legislature are waiting to hear more before they back Stumbo's bill.

"I think there is some validity to the speaker's proposal," said Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. "The devil is always in the details. The cost is something that needs to be addressed. What I want to make sure is that if we pass a law on this issue that it is truly a deterrent and that it will truly save lives."

The Kentucky Domestic Violence Association, a statewide advocacy coalition based in Frankfort, said Tuesday that the group supports "any measure that will increase the safety of victims of domestic violence."

However, executive director Sherry Currens said "KDVA would like to work with Rep. Stumbo to ensure that the measure has no unintended consequences."

A new study released this week showed that domestic violence and protection orders have helped reduce violence and have saved the state money. However, more still could be done to help victims of abuse.

The Kentucky Civil Protective Order Study, released by University of Kentucky researchers on Monday, showed that for most women, protective orders reduce violence.

The study followed 106 rural and 107 urban women in Kentucky at the time they obtained a protective order and at three and six months afterwards.

The report estimated that the issuance of protective orders saved $85 million in 2007. The cost savings included expenditures for police, courts and jails, health and mental health services and victim services.

The study also found gaps in the system used to keep victims safe, particularly those who are being stalked. State and court officials should improve the enforcement of protective orders, said UK professor TK Logan, one of the study's lead authors.

"Some officials in the justice system and some victim-service representatives do not seem to acknowledge or appreciate the danger associated with stalking or the toll it takes on victims," Logan said.

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