Laws need to catch up with scourge of domestic violence
In Connecticut, a conviction for murder carries a minimum sentence of 25 years, while a conviction for manslaughter in the first degree carries a minimum sentence of only five years. This often results in perpetrators serving sentences shorter than the length of time they had been abusing their victims
Inaction is not an option when it comes to intimate partner and domestic violence murder in Connecticut. It is imperative that lawmakers take proactive steps to prevent and address it. This can be achieved through the passage of laws that establish clear and severe penalties for perpetrators of these crimes, as well as measures to provide support and resources for victims and their families.
State Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan and 27 members of the House and Senate, representing both sides of the aisle, have introduced H.B. 6431, “An Act Concerning Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence Murder.” It is a crucial step toward acknowledging and addressing the severity of domestic violence and intimate partner murder in Connecticut. This bill will define and create a crime for domestic violence and intimate partner murder, making it a Class A felony and providing for stronger enforcement of stricter penalties for perpetrators and more legislative support for victims.
The statistics are staggering. In Connecticut alone 325 people have been killed by their intimate partners since 2000, with 87 percent of the victims being women. There are an average of 14 intimate partner killings every year, with 40 percent involving firearms and 60 percent involving other brutal means such as knives, strangulation, or arson. The lethal and brutal nature of these crimes highlight the urgent need for legislative action.
It is a tragedy that women continue to be killed by their abusive partners with alarming frequency. While prosecutors offer assurances to the families that the perpetrators will be punished to the fullest extent of the law, the reality is that the law often falls short in holding these killers accountable. The current criminal law in Connecticut makes it incredibly difficult for prosecutors to charge perpetrators of intimate partner killings with murder, even when there is a pattern of ongoing abuse leading up to the killing.
The Connecticut Penal Code provides for several “special circumstances” that qualify a killing as murder, such as killing for pecuniary gain or during a sexual assault or kidnapping. However, absent from these special circumstances is any reference to a pattern of perpetrating domestic violence against the eventual victim over the course of time.
At least 10 states have already updated their penal codes to include a history of domestic violence or a restraining order as an aggravating factor in murder cases. This change means perpetrators of sustained domestic violence who kill their partners in those states are less likely to argue that they caused their partner’s death in the “heat of passion” to avoid a murder conviction.
In Connecticut, a conviction for murder carries a minimum sentence of 25 years, while a conviction for manslaughter in the first degree carries a minimum sentence of only five years. This often results in perpetrators serving sentences shorter than the length of time they had been abusing their victims, which goes against principles of justice and public policy.
It is high time that our laws catch up to the reality of domestic violence and intimate partner homicide. Prosecutors must have the tools to hold domestic violence murderers accountable so that justice is served for the victims and their families. This proposed bill is a crucial step toward addressing the severity of domestic violence and intimate partner murder in Connecticut and it is our responsibility as citizens to support and advocate for its passage into law.