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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: December 21, 2016 11:31 AM
From: Senator Camera Bartolotta
To: All Senate members
Subject: Tierne’s Law – Enhanced Domestic Violence Protection
Please join me as a co-sponsor to legislation I intend to introduce to clarify that Magisterial District Judges may, in cases of domestic violence, use a risk assessment tool to determine whether a defendant poses a danger to a victim when determining bail.

To meet the goal of enhanced safety for an increasing number of victims, service providers and interveners are inevitably involved in attempting to identify the most dangerous offenders and manage the risks posed to victims. In response, risk assessment tools have been used to assess both an offender’s risk of re-offending, and a victim’s risk of lethal assault. They have been proven to be predictive tools of subsequent offenses and current state law contains ambiguous language that has, to date, undermined their use.

In August 2016, an ongoing domestic violence situation in my senatorial district ended tragically following the armed kidnapping and subsequent murder of Tierne Ewing, a local woman, by her estranged husband. In July 2016, prior to the incident that resulted in her murder, the estranged husband had been arrested for domestic violence and other offenses. Despite a prosecutor’s request to raise or revoke bail due to the husband’s history of abuse and the existence of an active protection from abuse order (PFA), the individual’s bail was not increased. The courts did, however, require that he be confined to his home and monitored with an electronic device on his ankle while awaiting trial for the July arrest. Unfortunately, it was during this time that he removed the ankle monitor and then kidnapped and murdered Tierne Ewing.

This tragedy gained national media attention and prompted the attention of the Commonwealth’s district attorneys, domestic violence experts and others to examine how our judicial system can better protect victims of domestic violence. These experts believe removing ambiguity in current law so that judges know they can utilize risk assessment tools is a good first step in helping to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. My proposal was developed and is supported by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

For this reason, I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as SB449