HARRISBURG – The Senate Judiciary Committee took an important step toward protecting victims of domestic violence today by approving a bill introduced by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Senate Bill 449 clarifies that judges can use risk assessment tools to determine whether a defendant poses a danger to a victim when setting bail in domestic violence cases. Risk assessment tools have proven to be effective in predicting an offender’s odds of re-offending and creating a dangerous circumstance for victims, Bartolotta said.
“In too many cases, judges don’t have the tools they need to determine whether an offender is likely to seek retribution against their victim,” Bartolotta said. “Clarifying the law regarding the use of risk assessment tools will help more judges keep the most dangerous offenders where they belong – behind bars.”
Bartolotta named the bill Tierne’s Law in honor of Tierne Ewing, a Washington County resident who was kidnapped and later murdered by her estranged husband in August 2016. The killer had been arrested a few weeks prior to the kidnapping for domestic violence and other offenses, but was granted bail in spite of the prosecutor’s request for bail to be raised or revoked.
“Tierne’s senseless death was devastating to all of the friends and family who loved her. This tragedy and others like it should serve as a wake-up call that our current laws are inadequate to protect victims,” Bartolotta said. “The more information we make available to judges regarding offenders, the better the chances they can protect victims who are still in danger.”
Last year, Pennsylvania assisted more than 89,000 victims of domestic violence. Ewing was one of 102 domestic violence homicide victims in 2016. Eight of those victims lived in the counties Bartolotta represents.
Bartolotta’s bill was developed with input from district attorneys, domestic violence experts and others who have an interest in improving the judicial system’s ability to protect victims.
CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463