Ohio Public Defender’s Office Questions Domestic Violence Bill
Former state lawmaker and Cuyahoga County judge Lance Mason is facing a life sentence next month after pleading guilty Wednesday to the fatal stabbing of his ex-wife Aisha Fraser in November. Her murder prompted a bipartisan bill that seeks to better protect victims of domestic violence.
"Aisha’s Law" was inspired by the murder of Aisha Fraser, killed when she was dropping off her children at her ex-husband's house. Mason had pleaded guilty to domestic violence in 2015, accused of repeatedly punching Fraser and slamming her head into a car dashboard, breaking the bone around her eye. Two of their children were in the back seat.
The law would require risk screenings in domestic violence incidents and protective orders available around the clock. It would ban previously convicted offenders from pleading down, and would add strangulation to the offense of domestic violence.
However Niki Clum with the Ohio Public Defender’s Office said it would also create exceptions for out of court statements or hearsay as evidence.
“Anytime somebody had ever been accused – not just convicted, but accused – of domestic violence, that would be admissible. And that really goes against a fundamental idea of our criminal justice system," Clum said.
The Public Defender and the ACLU also oppose the bill because it expands the death penalty to aggravated murder cases where the accused has a prior domestic violence conviction.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), and a quarter of the members of the Ohio House, both Republicans and Democrats, are listed as co-sponsors.