Friday, January 15, 2016

Prosecutors of crimes against children would get help under bill headed to Senate

Prosecutors would have another tool to convict abusers of Kentucky’s most defenseless citizens under legislation passed today in the House.

House Bill 109 sponsor Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively,said the bill would create a “continuing course of conduct” tool to aid prosecution of sex abuse and other serious crimes perpetrated against vulnerable victims like young children. It would allow these victims to testify to a pattern of abuse rather than specific dates that Jenkins said are often hard for young children to recall.

Jenkins filed the bill after the Kentucky Supreme Court last year overturned the conviction of a man accused of sexually assaulting his six-year-old stepdaughter in the case Ruiz v. Commonwealth. In Ruiz, the child victim testified that she was sodomized and abused 2 to 3 times a week by her stepfather while her mother was on military deployment, but her inability to distinguish between the events helped lead to the case being overturned.

“Think about a small child. They can remember horrific acts that were committed in some detail but may not remember the specific date,” said Jenkins.

Questions about the cost of the bill to the state’s corrections system were raised by some lawmakers. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg responded that there is no corrections impact for HB 109. “(HB 109 doesn’t) enhance penalties for existing crimes…it (doesn’t) have any fiscal impact because it (doesn’t) create a new crime—it simply creates a rule of evidence for prosecutors to help them prosecute these awful crimes.”

Stumbo said crime and punishment bills that come before the House routinely have a corrections impact statement attached.

HB 109 passed the House by a vote of 91-0 and now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

The bill includes an emergency clause, which means it would take effect immediately should it become law.