Johnson told a similar story to the House Civil Law Committee Tuesday. She was joined by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder. He has sponsored a bill that would give the family of a murder victim more property rights when the suspected killer is the victim’s spouse.
The bill would adjust an existing law that already prohibits someone from gaining financially through real estate, life insurance benefits or cash assets after being found guilty of killing a spouse. If the new portion of the law is passed, the victim’s family could ask a judge to freeze certain property after someone is charged with a spouse’s murder. That property would remain in storage, and out of the control of the suspect’s family, until the criminal case is over.
A judge also would be given a lot of leeway, Cornish said. He or she could issue an order for an inventory of the couple’s property if the victim’s family doesn’t know what exists. Assets that are needed to pay for attorney’s fees or other bills for the suspect also could be released by the judge, if necessary.
Cornish’s bill passed through the Civil Law Committee unanimously Tuesday and will go to the House Judiciary Committee next for review, Cornish said. The Senate bill also passed through its Judiciary Committe unanimously and is ready for a floor vote.
When Johnson testified before the Senate committee earlier this month, she was joined by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria. The former Douglas County sheriff, and the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, told the committee he had never seen a situation like the one described by Johnson.
“I didn’t realize this wasn’t covered,” Ingebrigtsen said. “The assailant’s family took control of the property, disposed of the property and left the victim’s family out of any control.”