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COLUMBUS — Individuals who permanently disable youngsters would face increased mandatory prison sentences, under legislation passed by the Ohio Senate April 5.
SB 20 passed on a vote of 30-3 and heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) said the legislation is titled Destiny’s Law, in honor of a youngster from Clark County whose skull was fractured after her mother’s boyfriend violently shook her and threw her against a wall.
“Destiny’s assailant has since been released from prison, but Destiny continues to serve a life sentence due to her permanent brain injuries,” Hackett said. “These crimes often involve very young and vulnerable victims who are unable to protect themselves, and it is my hope that with this increased penalty that we can prevent and help deter another tragic case like Destiny’s.”
SB 20 would require additional prison terms of three to eight years if offenders are convicted of endangering or felonious assault of children, if the victims suffer permanent disabling harm.
That latter would include injuries that permanently and substantially impair “a person's ability to meet one or more of the ordinary demands of life, including the functions of caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working,” according to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission.
Sen. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood) attempted an amendment during Wednesday’s floor session to enable greater discretion by judges in such cases, removing the mandatory minimum prison sentences required by the legislation.
“Every offender is not identical,” he said. “And it is the judges and the juries then that can craft the appropriate sentences to serve the social policies of correction and rehabilitation.”
He added, “The case of Destiny is one of those extreme cases. It probably deserved a greater sentence than what it actually got. But there’s a whole gamut of cases, a whole spectrum of cases, with different facts, different type of offenders, in which a five-year minimum may be excessive, and that’s the concern.”
Skindell’s amendment was tabled.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.