COLUMBUS - A bill broadening the powers of juvenile court judges to intervene in teen violence cleared a legislative hurdle yesterday that had blocked its path for years.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), expands the authority of juvenile court judges to issue and enforce protection orders to protect one minor from another when one has been accused of committing felonious or aggravated assault, menacing by stalking, a sex crime, or similar offenses.
The last thing the Senate did before unanimously approving the measure was name it for Shynerra Grant, a 17-year-old Toledo girl murdered in 2005 by ex-boyfriend Antonio Bryant. He then went home and killed himself.
The measure creates a process similar to one now used in adult courts to allow someone who feels threatened to seek a protection order telling the subject of those fears to stay away. The judge's order may include electronic monitoring.
Ms. Brown credited the testimony of Johanna Orozco, of Cleveland, who was shot in the face by a former boyfriend, for turning around lawmakers.
"I am term-limited, and I don't want to leave here without getting some type of justice for Shynerra, who was the original victim that prompted me to try to get this law changed," Ms. Brown said. "Hopefully, some young lady's - or even young man's - life may be saved because their family or they are able to get a protection order rather than a no-contact order. "Juvenile courts currently can institute no-contact orders that make illegal its subject from coming into physical contact with the would-be victim, but senators argued that doesn't go far enough.
"Shynerra Grant was a beautiful young woman from Toledo who had a promising future," Sen. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) said. "Her untimely death came at the hands of a young man with whom she'd previously had a dating relationship. For a year after Shynerra ended her relationship with her high school boyfriend, he continued to harass and injure her on several occasions. Ultimately, he killed her within days of high-school graduation."
The Ohio House must sign off on changes made by the Senate before the measure can reach Gov. Ted Strickland's desk. The House had unanimously approved the prior version last year.
Some senators had previously raised concerns that the taint of a juvenile protection order could haunt its subject throughout adult life. The latest version provides a method for the record of the juvenile proceedings to be sealed once its subject turns 19 and has successfully complied with the protection order.
Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), one of those previously standing in the bill's way, later became one of the biggest champions of the revised version. He noted that he was concerned when Ms. Brown first introduced the measure because it dealt with violence within the context of "teen-dating relationships."
"It's not the date. It's the hate," he said. "We do not want juvenile courts to begin inquiring into what constitutes a date."
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