AMESBURY — Looking to strengthen state domestic violence laws, Attorney General Martha Coakley and House Speaker Robert DeLeo yesterday visited the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center, known nationally for its efforts to protect victims of domestic abuse and keep offenders behind bars.
The visit comes as Domestic Violence Awareness Month winds down.
The heightened interest in reviewing current domestic violence and restraining order laws comes after the shocking murder of Waltham resident Jennifer Martel in August allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend, Jared Remy, son of Red Sox television announcer Jerry Remy.
DeLeo, who spoke to a boardroom packed with state lawmakers, local officials and area police, echoed statements he made shortly after the murder, saying he reached out to Coakley about whether she’d be interested in partnering with him in changing laws that would further protect domestic violence victims. He said he hopes to come up with legislation, with Coakley’s input, by the end of the current legislative session that would improve the system.
“How can we make the system better? Is it the court, is it police, is it the Legislature, is it money, is it wording in a statute? Whatever it may be, I think that we as a Legislature, as a commonwealth have to do something. How can we make it better?” DeLeo said.
Immediately following Martel’s murder, Coakley also made it known she favored reviewing domestic violence laws. Since then she and DeLeo have been looking at the laws currently on the books, what’s working and what’s lacking. She called yesterday’s visit to the crisis center part of her research in terms of what is working.
Coakley lauded the center’s ability to provide support to victims who are in fear and at risk. That support includes assessing the danger level to the victim and whether a restraining order against the offender is enough to protect her. If not, the center has been able to combine resources and gather information that could be used to persuade prosecutors to seek a dangerousness hearing against the offender. During a dangerousness hearing a judge can deem a defendant too dangerous to the victim or society at large to be allowed out on bail.