By Susan Tebben
A proposed law named for a Shaker Heights woman who lost her life to domestic violence was approved by a House committee on Thursday.
Aisha’s Law was passed out of the House Criminal Justice Committee after receiving even more testimony on its importance, and despite arguments against it by a criminal defense association.
The bill was named after Aisha Fraser, who was killed by the father of her children, Lance Mason, a former state legislator.
“We are one step closer to honoring Aisha’s life and light, and so many others,” said bill cosponsor state Rep. Janine Boyd, D-Cleveland Heights, in a statement after the bill was passed out of committee.
House Bill 3 would expand the legal definition of domestic violence to include strangulation and require more in-depth rules and procedures for law enforcement officers, including the implementation of a “lethality assessment” when responding to a domestic violence situation.
It would also expand the offense of “aggravated murder” to include “purposely causing the death of another when the victim was a family or household member of the offender” or when the accused has a previous felony domestic violence conviction, according to the bill language.
Committee members made a change to the bill on Thursday, to define the domestic violence strangulation provision as “knowingly impeding the normal breathing or blood circulation of a family or household member.”
Previous versions of the bill the language had specified the offense as “recklessly” impeding normal breathing.
As part of the new rules regarding strangulation, law enforcement will have to inform victims of alleged strangulation and the dangers, seen and unseen, of being strangled.
Strangulation was a significant focus of the bill, which has been introduced in multiple general assemblies, with law enforcement and domestic violence survivors alike pointing out that physical trauma from strangulation often doesn’t show up in external medical exams or photographs after incidents.
In the bill, the state would pay $150,000 to the Police Officers’ Training Academy to train police officers on proper response to domestic violence calls.
Several other supporters of the bill spoke on Thursday, including two sexual assault and forensic nurse examiners who said the bill was important to all the patients they have to assess and the law enforcement that they work with after traumatic incidents.
“If I was to speed down the highway and I never had any consequences to that, would I ever stop doing it?” Melisa Miner, of the International Association of Forensic Nurses, asked the committee. “You are in the position where you can do something about this.”
The only opposition the committee heard from before approving the bill was from the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Blaise Katter, public policy chair for the association said complicating the criminal justice process by adding another class of aggravated murder will only make the process harder.
“We just want to make sure that the language in the bill is correlated at getting those offenders while not being too overly broad that it expounds much beyond what is intended,” Katter said.
Because of the appropriation included in the bill, House rules dictate the bill must now go back to the Rules and Reference Committee, who will send it to the House Finance Committee for consideration.