After Midland Park murder, should domestic violence offenders be tracked?
A vicious murder last week in Midland Park involving a machete-style knife led to a new push to pass Lisa’s Law in the Garden State.
The legislation (A-3806) would create a pilot program for the electronic monitoring of some domestic violence offenders in Ocean County. Offenders would have to wear an electronic ankle bracelet when released on bail and the victim must also be notified when the abuser is close by.
“The victim would have a device or even an app on their phone and the victim would be able to look and to have that notification as well as alert police and the offenders have a responsibility to actually pay for the monitoring,” said Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel), co-sponsor of Lisa’s Law. “This is really about turning victims onto survivors.”
The measure was inspired by Letizia "Lisa" Zindell, of Toms River who was murdered on Aug. 13, 2009 by her former fiancée, Frank Frisco, who then killed himself. The fatal attack happened just one day after Frisco was released from jail for violating a restraining order Zindell had filed against him.
Lisa’s Light Foundation was founded by Tara Delorme shortly after Lisa’s murder. Lisa was Tara’s friend and Delorme continues to push for passage of Lisa’s Law because she believes it's critically important for victims.
“We honestly believe that it provides them with a gift of time. It gives them the opportunity to protect themselves as best they can by being pro-active. In other words, if they do know that their attacker is in a certain vicinity it gives them the opportunity to get to safety,” Delorme said.
There were no shortage of supporters for Lisa’s Law.
“Lisa did everything she could to try to protect herself, but our current law wasn’t enough,” said bill co-sponsor, Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Jackson) in an emailed statement. “We need to keep people safe from abusers who are likely to continue their depraved behavior. This measure will allow us to take advantage of all available technology to make sure violent offenders cannot repeat their crimes.”
The pilot program would apply to people charged with or convicted of contempt of a domestic violence order. In determining who would be subject to the monitoring, a judge would consider the seriousness of the attack, the past domestic violence history of the offender and whether being in the program would likely deter the offender from hurting the victim again.
“Giving victims the ability to know precisely where their attackers are, at all times, gives them power over the most insidious part of a domestic violence attack: the fear and that simple level of control will go a long way towards helping the victims put their lives back together again," bill co-sponsor Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Turnersville) said in a press release.
Last week, after former NYPD officer Arthur Lomando, allegedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend, Suzanne Bardzell, to death in her Bergen County driveway, advocacy groups again began tp call for passage of Lisa’s Law.
In a statement from the New Jersey Coalition to End Domestic Violence, spokesperson Cristina Williams said the case and others “call attention the extreme dangers victims face when leaving an abusive relationship or seeking to maintain safety from abusive partners — it is an especially dangerous time for them.”
Under Lisa’s Law, offenders placed on electronic monitoring would be forced to foot the bill for all costs related to the monitoring and victim notification, based on their ability to pay. People in the program would be monitored 24 hours a day. Anyone who tampers with, removes or vandalizes a monitoring device would be fined up to $15,000 and face three to five years in jail.
On June 25, the bill was approved 77-0-1 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate where it has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The original version of the bill was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie in January of 2014. He cited concerns about the cost and reliability of the pilot program. Singleton said that was addressed because technology has evolved and just $2.5 million would be set aside to run the program.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.