Nunn case concludes; abuse continues

Life in prison with no parole is a fair sentence for former state Rep. Steve Nunn, who on Tuesday avoided a possible death sentence by pleading guilty to murdering Amanda Ross, his one-time fiancée, outside her Lexington townhouse on Sept. 11, 2009.

Nunn also pleaded guilty to violating a domestic-violence protective order and was sentenced to 12 months to be served concurrently with the life sentence.

We hope this end to the criminal proceedings brings solace to the Ross family, especially Amanda's mother, Diana, who turned her grief at losing a child into a crusade for stronger protections for victims of domestic violence.

In the process of debating Amanda's Law last year, some members of the state Senate revealed their own backward attitudes about violence and women. The law that finally emerged was not as strong as it should have been.

But the loss of Amanda Ross, and her family's response, has done much to raise awareness of the need to better protect Kentuckians from violence at the hands of intimate partners.

By spending the rest of his life in jail, Nunn, the son of a governor, will show that the justice system can punish domestic violence and hold violators accountable.

As Marcia Roth, a Louisville-based advocate for domestic violence victims, said, "We've finally agreed perhaps that violence against women and intimate partners calls for a very strong response and a very strong punishment. ... To say that it was a crime of passion ... is no longer an argument that holds water."

Domestic violence is not a crime of passion; it's a crime of control. That someone with as much going for her as Amanda Ross could become a victim tells us that no one is immune, regardless of education, profession, family or connections.

For years, when Nunn's name appeared on this page, it was usually in connection with some good cause in the legislature.

As a state representative from Barren County, Nunn was known for his compassion toward the poor, disabled, sick and uninsured. He was a reliable vote on bills that aimed to protect women and children from violence and abuse.

In the days since he lay in wait for Amanda Ross, the dark side of Nunn's life has been exposed.

One of his attorneys said one of the reasons he decided to plead guilty was to spare his children from having to be witnesses at his trial, which sounds more like the Nunn we thought we knew.

Ross's family and friends expressed relief at having been spared the ordeal of a trial. They were also relieved to hear Nunn take responsibility for what he did for the first time. "This might be the first day to start healing," said a Ross family friend. We hope so.