AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Attorney General William Schneider unveiled the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel’s two-year report on Thursday, just an hour before Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill into law to assist victims of domestic violence.
LD 1841, the governor’s bill that was sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, is an act to ensure funding for the Victims’ Compensation Fund.
The law prohibits a court from waiving the $25 assessment on a person convicted of murder or a Class A, B or C crime and $10 on a person convicted of a Class D or E crime. Those assessments are used for the Victims’ Compensation Fund.
“It provides financial reimbursement for lots of suffering by victims of violent crimes throughout the state of Maine,” said LePage. “Currently, in many cases, these [assessments] are waived. Frankly, some of the people abused in this state will go on having scars for the rest of their lives, both emotionally and physically. I don’t believe $25 should ever be waived. I don’t believe we ought to give breaks to abusers.
“I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be an 11-year-old and abused. I don’t want that to happen to anyone,” said LePage.
The Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel’s report gives conclusions and recommendations based on the 21 domestic violence-related homicides the state had in 2010 and 2011. Sixteen of the perpetrators were male and two were female, while seven of the homicide victims were male and 14 were female. Four of the victims were children.
Lisa Marchese, panel chairwoman and assistant attorney general, said the panel’s hard work will be put to good use.
“I am so proud to hold up this document today,” said Marchese. “Look at its title. It says: ‘Working Together to End Domestic Violence Homicide in Maine.’ This title honors the partnership and alliances that have formed to end domestic violence.”
LePage also praised lawmakers from both parties in helping get work done to prevent domestic violence.
“Republicans and Democrats have come together and collaborated on this issue. It’s not a problem that’s defined by party,” said LePage. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to put politics aside.”
The report also listed checkmarks next to recommendations that are already making their way through the Legislature.
“The panel determined that in one particular case, electronic monitoring of a defendant may have prevented the homicide because law enforcement would have known that the perpetrator was near the house where they shouldn’t have been,” Marchese said in explaining one of the examples.
Marchese said the recommendations made by the panel as a result of the homicides should prevent more lives from being lost.
“Their deaths, while undeserved and reprehensible, will not be in vain because people are working cooperatively toward the common goal of ending domestic violence and domestic violence homicide,” she said.
Maine State Police Col. Robert Williams and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Morris also spoke during the press conference.
Two other bills concerning domestic violence, LD 1867 and LD 1760, could be signed by LePage as early as next week, according to spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett.
LD 1867, sponsored by Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, calls for bail of a person charged with a crime involving domestic violence to be set by a judge and not a bail commissioner. It also requires a judge to deny bail in certain circumstances. LD 1867 is a governor’s bill.
LD 1760, sponsored by Rep. Alan Casavant, D-Biddeford, requires notification to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking when defendants are released on bail.
“When [perpetrators are] released from jail, [notification of victims] is not always made in a timely manner and there’s some inconsistency in who’s responsible for making [the notification],” said LePage. “We need to close that. We need to make sure victims are well aware of the whereabouts of the perpetrator. This is about putting Maine people first — Maine people, Maine families first.”
LePage emphasized that he will keep domestic violence law reform at the forefront.
“This is not the end of this subject,” he said. “For as long as I’m governor, you’re going to see me, hear me talk about domestic violence.”