FRANKFORT — If Kentucky had a law on its books to allow judges to order electronic monitoring devices for the most dangerous domestic violence offenders, Amanda Ross would have had a chance to protect herself, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday.
"It would have given Amanda Ross the opportunity to use a firearm that she had been trained to use and had a license to carry," Stumbo said after the first public hearing on his bill to provide a high-tech way to fight domestic abuse.
"It gives the victims what I call a fighting chance," he said.
Ross, 29, a state Department of Insurance employee, was gunned down outside her Lexington townhouse on Sept. 11, allegedly by her former fiancé Steve Nunn.
Ross had taken out a protection order against Nunn, a former state legislator and son of the late Gov. Louie Nunn, earlier this year and had told friends and co-workers that she feared for her life in the days before her death. Nunn has pleaded not guilty to murder.
Less than two weeks after Ross was slain, Stumbo pre-filed his bill for consideration in the 2010 General Assembly and dubbed it "Amanda's bill."
For more than an hour Friday, Stumbo discussed the bill with members of the legislature's interim Judiciary Committee and presented a demonstration by Fayette County Detention Center Director Ron Bishop and Lexington police Sgt. Shaun Hubbard on how the monitoring system would work.
Stumbo also said after the hearing that Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson is working on a federal grant application through U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler's office to test the electronic monitoring devices in some Kentucky counties.
Under Stumbo's bill, judges would conduct a risk assessment before assigning a global positioning device, commonly called a GPS.
The measure would allow a court to impose electronic monitoring as a condition of bail for a person charged with a crime of domestic violence or violation of a protective order, which orders an alleged assailant to stay away from a victim.
Victims of domestic violence would be allowed to wear a device, if they choose, to alert them when the person with the order comes within a certain distance.
Stumbo said he would expect the law to affect about 15 percent of the 11,000 domestic violence orders in Kentucky each year.
Similar legislation has been passed in 15 states, and none has recorded a murder since implementation of the measure, Stumbo said.
He said he was not guaranteeing complete success with the bill, but "it could be a valuable tool."
Bishop said Fayette County has been using electronic monitoring devices for about four years in other crimes and has "about a 90 percent success rate."
He said the offenders have to pay about $7 to $8 a day for the devices, and the local government absorbs the costs for indigents.
Stumbo said he knows of no organized opposition to the bill and hopes that it will be enacted into law by the time of a Feb. 12 fund-raiser that his wife, Mary Karen Stumbo, is working for an endowed chair and scholarships for the domestic violence research center at the University of Kentucky. She is a friend of the Ross family.