Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Tracy's Law: Alabama State Bill Passed Regarding Stalking

In memory of Tracy Lynn Morris, who was brutally assaulted and murdered by Jason Michael Sharp after nearly two years of stalking her without breaking the law as currently defined, her brother, D. Brian Morris, proposed that the State of Alabama make a serious change to existing law within that state and that the state adopt a new law to combat stalking - known as “Tracy’s Law.”


Background
According to her obituary, Tracy was living in Huntsville, Alabama at the time of the stalking, but she was a native of Portsmouth, Virginia and had lived in Madison County since 1981. She was employed with Dunlop Tires and Decatur General Hospital. She was just 33 years old when she brutally murdered by Sharp on January 2, 1999.

Sharp was arrested on Jan. 15, 1999 for the murder-rape of Tracy Lynn Morris. In 2006, Jason Michael Sharp was convicted.

The Crime
Jason Sharp – white, age 21
Sentenced to death in Madison County, Alabama
By: A judge, after an 11-1 recommendation of death by a jury
Date of crime: Jan. 2, 1999
Prosecution’s case/defense response: Sharp was convicted of the rape and murder of Tracy Lynn Morris. Morris was stabbed 37 times by a screwdriver and beaten to death in her bedroom. Semen on her thigh and on the carpet identified Jason Sharp. The defense said that evidence of sexual intercourse did not prove that Sharp raped and murdered the victim. Defense also presented mitigating evidence included that Sharp was abandoned as an infant, was abused by his mother’s boyfriends, and having little criminal history. A mitigation specialist also provided testimony of how Sharp was dropped on his head at eight months old, and the resulting skull fracture caused emotional development.
Prosecutor(s): Robert Broussard, Randy Dill
Defense lawyer(s): Alan Mann, Barry Abston
Sources: Huntsville Times 8/30/06, 9/14/06, 9/15/06

The most pathetic and saddening (shocking actually) part of this story is that in December 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned his conviction based on the (excuse) that the Madison County District Attorney's Office struck too many black jurors from the jury pool, leaving only one black on Jason Michael Sharp's jury. Read the story here.

Her brother Brian, who served on the Huntsville Police Department for seven years, wrote to the judges on their (retarded) decision to overturn Sharps conviction, saying:

"Sharp is a white man who killed a white woman, and I am completely stunned that this confessed, murdering, sodomizing, torturing, rapist actually gets to play a "black race card" that he doesn't hold, and YOU bought it!

"I'm absolutely dumbstruck."

Read more about the familys reaction here.

Good on Brian Morris for deciding to take action and do something about his sisters brutal murder. Option: make changes to the existing laws in Alabama. Working in the law enforcement field firsthand, and likely seeing the failings of the judicial system in protecting his sister (very disheartening for anyone to experience, let alone a police officer), Brian set out to write a letter to his representatives to make a new law to help stalking victims. (Read his proposal here.)

Brian also started a website - Stop My Stalker - therefore I urge you to support Brian as what he is doing (and has done already) will change stalking laws around the world (and perhaps the backwards mentality of the policing and justice systems).

The Law Surrounding Stalking in Alabama
Alabama currently has laws defining felonious Stalking and Aggravated Stalking (Codes of Ala. § 13A-6-90 and 13A-6-91) and they do recognize that lesser offenses occur far more frequently - over longer periods of time - thus resulting in the continuous harassment, invasion of privacy, and psychological abuse of victims. Thus it often leads to the greater felonious offenses against them (physical assault, property damage, murder, etc.).

So Brian proposed that a new, lesser-included offense for Second Degree Stalking, a Class B Misdemeanor, be defined and added to the State Criminal Code of Alabama under 13A-6-90.

Why Stalkers Get Away With So Much
No matter what state or country you reside in the world, it is obvious that no laws exist to stop stalking in the perceived “harmless” stages, and victims are increasingly frustrated with the inability of law enforcement to act in the absence of said laws.

In Tracy’s case, Mr. Sharp – believing that he was “in love” – often drove by her home, knocked on her door at all hours, left many unwanted gifts, cards, flowers, etc., and made many advances toward Tracy even though she had repeatedly told him to stop and leave her alone.

She had no recourse, even though he had a long-established history of said activities before he killed her. In essence, his first criminal act after nearly two years of stalking her was to beat, rape, sodomize, and murder her on January 2, 1999 – stabbing her 37 times with a screwdriver. None of his prior activities were prosecutable offences under the current law.

This is so much the same reality for thousands of stalking victims around the world.

Changing the Law
Brian explained that clearly a new law was needed to help victims take action against stalkers before they turn violent. Tracy’s Law provides a much-needed instrument in law enforcement, enabling the prosecution of stalkers for lesser-included offences. Such prosecutions will serve to remind offenders that their behavior is as inappropriate as it is illegal and they should stop before it climaxes in an act of violence. The ultimate result will save lives.

This bill would designate the existing crime of stalking as stalking in the first degree and the existing crime of aggravated stalking as aggravated stalking in the first degree. And would provide for the crime of stalking in the second degree classified as a Class B misdemeanor and for the crime of aggravated stalking in the second degree classified as a Class C felony.

Sources: Proposal, First Reading of Bill (March 11, 2011)

To amend Sections 13A-6-90 and 13A-6-91 of the Code of Alabama 1975, to designate the crimes of stalking and aggravated stalking in the first degree; to add Sections 13A-6-90.1 and 13A-6-91.1 to the Code of Alabama 1975, to provide for the crimes of stalking and aggravated stalking in the second degree and in connection therewith would have as its purpose or effect the requirement of a new or increased expenditure of local funds within the meaning of Amendment 621 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Section 111.05 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended.

Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as "Tracy's Law."

Section 2. Sections 13A-6-90 and 13A-6-91 of the Code of Alabama 1975, are amended to read as follows:

§13A-6-90.
(a) A person who intentionally and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and who makes a credible threat, either expressed or implied, with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm is guilty of the crime of stalking in the first degree.

(b) The crime of stalking in the first degree is a Class C felony.

§13A-6-91.
(a) A person who violates the provisions of Section 13A-6-90(a) and whose conduct in doing so also violates any court order or injunction is guilty of the crime of aggravated stalking in the first degree.

(b) The crime of aggravated stalking in the first degree is a Class B felony.

Section 3. Sections 13A-6-90.1 and 13A-6-91.1 are added to Chapter 6 of Title 13A of the Code of Alabama 1975, to read as follows:

§13A-6-90.1
(a) A person who intentionally and repeatedly follows, harasses, telephones, or initiates communication, verbally, electronically, or otherwise, with another person, any member of the other person's immediate family, or any third party with whom the other person is acquainted, and causes material harm to the mental or emotional health of the other person, or causes such person to reasonably fear that his or her employment, business, or career is threatened, and the perpetrator was previously informed to cease that conduct is guilty of the crime of stalking in the second degree.

(b) The crime of stalking in the second degree is a Class B misdemeanor.

§13A-6-91.1
(a) A person who violates the provisions of Section 13A-6-90.1 and whose conduct in doing so also violates any court order or injunction is guilty of the crime of aggravated stalking in the second degree.

(b) The crime of aggravated stalking in the second degree is a Class C felony.

Section 4. Although this bill would have as its purpose or effect the requirement of a new or increased expenditure of local funds, the bill is excluded from further requirements and application under Amendment 621, now appearing as Section 111.05 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, because the bill defines a new crime or amends the definition of an existing crime.

Section 5. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

Passing of the Bill - A Success
On May 5th, 2011, Representative Mac McCutcheon presented Tracy's Law (HB 238) to the Alabama House of Representatives.

The bill passed through the house with a vote of 85 - 0 and now moves to the State Senate for approval. After that it will go to the Governor for signature into law (providing it passes through the Senate).

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