Legislature(1995 - 1996)

01/31/1995 08:05 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HSTA - 01/31/95                                                               
 Number 017                                                                    
                                                                               
 HB 74 - ASSAULT  BY ADULTS  ON CHILDREN                                     
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES recognized Representative Con Bunde, sponsor of  HB 74.           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CON BUNDE reported that Shaun Jensen who was the               
 impetus of HB 74,  and who was schedule to be here, would not be              
 available to testify due to weather conditions.  His plane was                
 grounded in Sitka.  HB 74 was initiated because of public concern             
 about the attack on this young person, Shaun Jensen, by three                 
 adults who could only be charged with a misdemeanor for their                 
 crime.  Representative Bunde said the bill was intended to fill a             
 gap if adults attack children under the age of ten.  Instead of               
 just being charged with a misdemeanor, it will ensure that they can           
 be charged with a felony.  This bill allows prosecutorial                     
 discretion, where there is an attack on a young person by people              
 over the age of eighteen.  Representative Bunde explained a                   
 discretionary provision has been included, because sometimes there            
 are minor "fisticuffs" or misunderstandings that do not warrant a             
 felony charge.  Some individuals at age 14 look more like 17 years            
 old, so there is some discretion required by the prosecutor.  Also,           
 there is public condemnation for people who would willingly and               
 knowingly attack a young person.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 115                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE read the written testimony of Julie Jensen               
 Zarr for the record.  The following testimony was read as follows:            
                                                                               
 My name is Julie Jensen Zarr and I am here today to ask for                  
 your support in passing House Bill 74.  The current assault                   
 law needs to be updated.                                                      
                                                                               
 On November 11, 1994 at 5:30 a.m. while delivering the                       
 Anchorage Daily News my 14 year old nephew, Shaun Jensen, as                  
 viciously assaulted by 3 adult men in South Anchorage.  Shaun                 
 lost 2 permanent teeth, suffered neck trauma and was run over                 
 by his own snow machine.  The law as it reads now only made                   
 misdemeanor charges against these men possible, not a message                 
 we want to send to thugs that prey on our young.                              
                                                                               
 In 1971, my family moved to Alaska and settled in South                      
 Anchorage, it was a great place to grow up.  We felt safe and                 
 secure walking or horse back riding anywhere.  My parents                     
 raised three children in Alaska we are now running our                        
 businesses and raising our children here.  The Anchorage of                   
 the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s did not have drive by shootings,                    
 assaults or random senseless acts of violence, the law at that                
 point in time fit, but in 1995 it does not.  As crimes change                 
 so much, the laws must change to fit the crimes of 1995 and                   
 beyond.                                                                       
                                                                              
 This event brought to light for me the need to make a                        
 difference and try to turn a negative into a positive,                        
 teaching my nephew and 2 children of empowerment instead of                   
 victimization.  A change in this law will show that through                   
 hard work and believing in an idea one person can make                        
 positive impact on society.  The outpouring of support from                   
 the people of Anchorage has also had a healing effect on                      
 Shaun.                                                                        
 Again, I ask for your support in passing House Bill 74.  I                   
 want to thank the committee for their attention and support.                  
 Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today.                          
                                                                               
 Number 137                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES noted, for the record, that Representative Caren                  
 Robinson came in during the sponsor's statement.                              
                                                                               
 Number 140                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN asked what the charge would be if the same           
 thing happened to adults.  He also questioned whether or not the              
 injury to Shaun was done by fists.  There was some concern on his             
 part about if the bill was taking this far enough.                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE said that hitting with a fist is not assault             
 with the deadly weapon unless there is bodily harm.  So, the same             
 damage to adults would just be a misdemeanor.  Representative Bunde           
 said there is a question about the difference between adults and              
 juveniles, and how to determine if a person is adult.  Some 16 year           
 olds appear to be older.  He said it is a frustration, and the law            
 should be written as "doable" without clogging the system.                    
                                                                               
 Number 213                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BRIAN PORTER complimented the sponsor of this                  
 legislation for not trying to dig into the criminal statutes and              
 change standards of physical injury.  These standards have been               
 with us since 1980 and there is a lot of case law behind them.                
 Trying to tinker in that area because of one situation would be               
 folly; it would lead to a law that would not fit the next                     
 situation.  What this bill does is present a policy-call on whether           
 the whole category of offense should become a felony.                         
 Representative Porter said he thought the bill was the right                  
 approach that will satisfy the individual case without disrupting             
 the statutes.  He said whenever there is an alleged crime there are           
 two considerations:  (1) if a crime has been committed; and (2)               
 then proving it.  One is called "criminal law" and one is "criminal           
 evidence."  Criminal evidence, having to meet a standard of beyond            
 a reasonable doubt, is where prosecutors and police officers run              
 into problems.  That was a problem with this case.  The use of a              
 snow machine to run over the child is something most people think             
 should be a felony, yet it had to be proved beyond a reasonable               
 doubt that the machine was intended to be used as a dangerous                 
 instrument.  If that could not be proved, the charge would be a               
 misdemeanor.                                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 258                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN wondered why they made it the age of 16, not             
 17 or adulthood.  He wondered if maybe they should make it anything           
 below 18.                                                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE reiterated that some 16 year olds are quite              
 physically mature and others aren't, so 16 seems to be the cusp of            
 the change.  More 17 and 18 year olds are likely to appear adult              
 than 16 year olds.                                                            
                                                                               
 Number 279                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE IVAN IVAN had a question about the language of the             
 bill.  He wanted a definition of "reasonably" used on page 2, line            
 5.  It states that the "injury reasonably requires medical                    
 treatment."                                                                   
                                                                               
 Number 285                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE answered that a reasonable adult will say                
 whether an injury is serious enough to require medical attention.             
                                                                               
 Number 293                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIR JAMES called for a motion.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 295                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER moved that the committee pass HB 74 out of              
 committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal                 
 notes.  There being no objections, it was so ordered.                         

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