Mother urges judges to use Amanda's Bill, set to take effect July 15

Mother urges judges to usenew protections whenever possible

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJuly 8, 2010 

FRANKFORT — Ten months after Amanda Ross was gunned down outside her downtown Lexington townhouse, a new domestic violence law inspired by the state worker's death will take effect July 15.

Amanda's Bill allows judges to order those who violate a domestic violence order to wear a global positioning system tracking device to help ensure that abusers remain the required distance from victims. It also allows felony charges to be pressed against violators who attempt to remove a court-ordered tracking device.

The slain woman's mother, Diana Ross, is imploring judges to use the new law at every possible opportunity.

"I'm pleading with the judges to use their common sense and order this," she said. "Every domestic violence case should be looked at as a potential homicide."

Former state Rep. Steve Nunn, a 57-year-old Glasgow Republican and son of the late Gov. Louie B. Nunn, was charged with shooting Amanda Ross early in the morning last Sept. 11. Nunn has pleaded not guilty and is being held in the Fayette County Detention Center. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Ross, who was 29, had obtained a domestic violence protective order against Nunn after the breakup of their engagement.

Although the law takes effect in one week, some domestic violence advocates are concerned about the implementation of House Bill 1 — one of several laws that take effect this month.

"I think it's going to be slow in its implementation," said Sherry Currens, director of the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association. "There are lots and lots of problems with it."

Currens said victims need to be educated about the law, especially about when they need to attend court.

She also said she is concerned that many counties in the state do not appear to be prepared to use the GPS system, "and we're all concerned about the cost of the monitoring systems."

The cost of the devices — which generally run $7 a day or more — must be paid by the person wearing the device. For indigent people, the Kentucky Supreme Court will set a sliding payment scale that the GPS system provider must accept as payment in full.

Darlene Thomas, executive director of the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program, said her major concern is how to get information about the law to victims.

"If victims are unsure about who can use this law and how to use it, they should call domestic violence programs for help," she said. "We all want to get this right."

Thomas said she hopes the media in Kentucky will "take a look at how the new law is faring in about six months.

"I'm hopeful about it, but I do have concerns."

The state courts system has "been working diligently on the implementation" of the new law, said Jamie Ball, a spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts.

She said circuit clerks received education on the new law during their conference on June 16. Deputy court clerks are receiving training during the second week of July, she said.

Ball noted that circuit and district judges are getting informed about the law through seminars on the Internet this month and the AOC has developed an automated process for the courts to request background checks as required by HB 1 and has revised domestic violence forms to comply with changes to the domestic violence statutes.

Also, domestic violence brochures are being revised to inform petitioners of the changes in the law and the possibility of GPS monitoring in their cases, she said.

Meanwhile, attorneys across the state have been informed about the law through continuing legal-education sessions, said Amy Carman, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Bar Association.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, successfully pushed the bill through this year's legislative session in the wake of the Ross murder, which riveted the state.

"Judges now have a powerful tool that should give greater peace of mind to victims worried for their safety," Stumbo said last week.

He praised the strength and vigilance of Diana Ross, who attended all legislative hearings on the issue.

"Her advocacy and resilience were crucial and a guide for us all," he said.

For her part, Ross said she'll continue to lobby for stronger domestic violence protections, particularly a proposal that would apply those laws to dating partners.

"I will be working in next year's legislative session to accomplish that," she said.

The mother said she considers the new law a tribute to not only her daughter, "but all victims of domestic violence."

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