Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Domestic Violence Bill Awaits Wolf's Signature Law to Be Named for Slain Woman

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Domestic Violence Bill Awaits Wolf's Signature Law to Be Named for Slain Woman

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG - A bill that is likely to become law could open the door for more judges to use risk-assessment tools - aimed at determining whether someone presents a danger to others - for setting bail in domestic violence cases.

The bill, which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has indicated he will sign, was introduced by state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Monongahela, and passed both the House and Senate without opposition. It was part of a larger package of bills aimed at improving protections for domestic violence victims or closing loopholes surrounding protection-from-abuse orders. The Senate passed the bills unanimously Wednesday.

If it becomes law as expected, the legislation introduced by Ms. Bartolotta will be named for Tierne Ewing, a Washington County woman who was killed by her husband in an apparent murder-suicide in 2016.

Mrs. Ewing and her husband, Kevin Ewing, had a history of domestic abuse, according to officials, family and neighbors. A couple of months before their deaths, Mr. Ewing was charged with kidnapping Mrs. Ewing, branding her with a metal rod, binding her and locking her in a closet, among other crimes.

Mr. Ewing was under house arrest when he cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet, took Mrs. Ewing at gunpoint, then killed her and himself as police arrived, officials have said.

Ms. Bartolotta's bill changes Pennsylvania law to explicitly state that, with the court's blessing, magisterial district judges, Philadelphia municipal judges and Common Pleas Court judges could use pretrial risk assessments in conjunction with other tools to determine whether the defendant in a domestic violence case presents a danger to others.It's unclear whether the steps outlined in the bill could have prevented Mrs. Ewing's death.

Some outside observers have reservations about the bill, noting that risk-assessment tools can have disproportionate and punitive effects on minorities. …

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