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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 20, 2018 11:45 AM
From: Senator Kim L. Ward
To: All Senate members
Subject: Assisting Family Members of Murder Victims
I am introducing legislation aimed to assist the surviving family members of murder victims as they cope with the sudden and violent loss of their loved one.

My bill will amend the Crime Victims Act to enable family members of a murder victim to be reimbursed from the Victims Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) for earnings or support lost during their attendance at any court proceedings relating to the victim’s death. This would be limited to a parent, child, sibling, custodial grandparent or custodial grandchild of a murder victim.

Murder victims are unique crime victims in that they obviously cannot be present in court for hearings or trials that are held. Their family members become very important in the prosecution of the defendant, particularly during proceedings when victim impact statements are given. Surviving family members must speak in these proceedings for themselves and the deceased victim who no longer has a voice of their own to be heard. To do so in person can create a financial burden at a time when the closest loved ones of a victim are carrying a very heavy emotional one. This legislation aims to provide some relief by removing the concern of lost wages of support while they are representing the murder victim in criminal justice system.

This bill will also extend reimbursement from the VCAP to siblings, custodial grandparents and custodial grandchildren for lost wages or support due to murder victim’s funeral. Parents and children of a murder victim can now get compensation for lost wages or support due to attendance at their loved one’s funeral. Unfortunately, the funeral of murder victims are often delayed in comparison to other deaths due to the criminal investigation involved, extending the time between the death and the burial for immediate family members, exceeding the leave policies of many work places.

Finally, this legislation will prohibit the release of a murder victim’s name prior to 24-hours from when the next-of-kin has been notified of the death by either the hospital or law enforcement. The media attention around a murder creates a unique and undue burden for the victim’s family, particularly in this age of online and social media. Often they have no idea their loved one’s name has been released to the media before they have had the chance to notify close family and friends who then learn of the death through the media. We need to give families what would be a minimal amount of time to understand what has happened, learn what the next steps in the criminal investigation are, and inform those closest to the victim before the media and public scrutiny intrude upon their grief.

If you have any questions regarding this legislation, please feel free to contact me or my legislative director, Geri Sarfert, at 717-787-1640.

Introduced as SB1179