Joshua’s Law is halfway home; Senate passes it, 24-0

CONCORD – Becky Ranes, of Amherst, choked back tears Thursday, Feb. 13, as the state Senate unanimously approved a bill creating a new crime of domestic violence and naming it after her late son, Joshua Savyon.

Outside the chamber after the Senate action, Gov. Maggie Hassan, returning to the Statehouse, spotted Ranes and gave her a big hug.

“Keep at it,” Hassan said to Ranes. “You are doing great work.”

Last week, Hassan called for adoption of Joshua’s Law and acknowledged Ranes in the crowd, whom Hassan had invited to her State of the State speech.

“Nothing can assuage the pain caused by the tragic murder of Joshua Savyon, but passing this bill in his memory will strengthen our communities and help countless families,” Hassan said in a statement last week.

Ranes left the Statehouse without saying much, but told an advocate of the bill that she’s been touched by the
support she’s received.

“It’s so gratifying to see so many people show so much strength,” Ranes said.

The 24-0 vote sends the proposal to create a separate criminal category of domestic violence to the House. New Hampshire is one of 15 states that has no criminal offense for domestic violence.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, authored the bill that she’s said is her top 2014 priority.

“When a person punches someone in a bar, that person is charged with assault,” said Soucy, whose district includes Litchfield. “When that same punch is thrown at your home, at the hands of someone who you placed your trust in, is that really the same of assault? I don’t think so.

“We know that these are very different situations with very different long-term consequences.”

Joshua Savyon, was killed by his father, Muni Savyon, during a court-
ordered supervised visit in August at a Manchester YWCA visitation center.

Muni Savyon, who turned the gun on himself, was under a domestic violence protective order because he had threatened to kill Joshua and Becky.

“This legislation is long overdue in New Hampshire,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, who represents Hudson.

Several senators praised Ranes for her activism and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said the impact of this change can’t be overstated.

“This is not a little step; it is a big step,” Bradley said.

Soucy said this law can’t bring Joshua back but helps police avert future domestic violence.

“We have the opportunity to ensure that other mothers don’t suffer the same tragedy that Becky did,” Soucy said.

Joshua’s Law is supported by chiefs of police, county sheriffs and attorneys, the attorney general, and the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice noted domestic violence is involved in half of the homicides committed in New Hampshire and 92 percent of the
murder-suicides.

Advocates say creating this new crime would increase due process rights for the accused and retain discretion for law enforcement. The language in the bill mirrors the federal domestic violence law and requires prosecutors to prove the incident involves family or household members or those in an intimate relationship. The proposal does not change any criminal penalties for the conduct.

On a related matter, the Senate approved a bill instructing judges to order that when a child is at risk then visitation with that parent may only be in a center with metal detectors and proper security.

The Manchester YWCA did not have metal detectors at the time of the double killing last summer.

The only centers with them are in Nashua and Boscawen, according to Amanda Grady Sexton, lobbyist for the New Hampshire Commission Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

The measure (SB 205) heading to the House creates a commission to study ways to expand the number of centers with these security upgrades.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).