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Published: Wednesday, 3/17/2010

New Ohio statute to safeguard teens

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Shynerra Grant did what she was supposed to do after her ex-boyfriend broke her jaw.

Fearing for her life, she turned to juvenile court and received a no-contact order that prohibited Antonio Bryant Rogers from coming into physical contact with her.

But less than two weeks after the 17-year-old West Toledo cheerleader graduated from Start High School in 2005, her family and friends attended her funeral. She'd been shot by Rogers after fleeing to a friend's house to escape him.

That day brought an abrupt end to two young lives. Rogers, 18, went home and shot himself.

Today, Gov. Ted Strickland will sign Shynerra's Law, handing juvenile court judges a tool they didn't have when the law's namesake first turned to the court for help in 2004.

The bill, which will take effect in 90 days, would authorize juvenile court judges to issue and enforce protection orders defending one minor from another when one has been accused of committing felonious or aggravated assault, menacing by stalking, a sex crime, or a similar offense.

Judges in adult courts already have that authority.

Shynerra's mother, Cheryl Rucker, is expected to be there when Mr. Strickland affixes his signature to the bill that Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) introduced three times over five years before it won passage.

Shynerra Grant of West Toledo was 17 when her ex-boyfriend killed her in 2005. Shynerra Grant of West Toledo was 17 when her ex-boyfriend killed her in 2005.
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"It's definitely her blood attached to it," Ms. Rucker said. "It can't bring her back, but what happened to her may help so that another young lady won't have to go through the same thing."

She said she believes her daughter would be alive today, most likely a graduate of Wilberforce University and working as a school teacher, if the judge in her case had the power to issue the juvenile equivalent of an adult protection order against Rogers and follow it up with electronic monitoring or other enforcement.

That would have been more effective than the no-contact order available at the time, Ms. Rucker said.

"That meant he couldn't contact her or talk to her, but they could be in the same place together," said Ms. Rucker. "It was basically nothing. He used to show up at games and other activities. Police said he could stay, because he wasn't talking to her.

"But he was still sending messages through other people, sending text messages, and still tormenting her," she said. "She was still being stalked. I believe he felt invincible because he didn't receive any jail time."

At one point, she said he convinced a new girlfriend to attack Shynerra.

Mr. Strickland eventually championed the bill, urging its passage at a domestic violence event last month.

"Research shows that females aged 16-24 are almost three times more likely to encounter dating violence than older women and that those patterns established in teen years carry over into adulthood," his spokesman, Amanda Wurst, said.

The bill includes a mechanism to have records of the juvenile proceedings sealed if the subject turns 19 after having complied with the protection order.

One of the stumbling blocks in getting the bill passed was some lawmakers' concerns that a single incident or a false accusation could haunt an individual into adulthood.

Judges' opinions of the bill evolved as its language evolved.

Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge Denise Navarre Cubbon was initially reluctant to be placed in a position of having to judge what constitutes a dating relationship under an early version. The bill's focus has since shifted away from violence within the context of a dating relationship to violence generally between minors.

"I would still have the option of issuing an interim order of no-contact while a case is still pending," she said. "But I'm going to imagine that, from a juvenile's and juvenile's family's perspective, a civil protection order raises the level of seriousness of this offense."

Now living in Mesquite, Texas, Ms. Rucker was visiting relatives this week in Toledo when she learned the governor was about to sign the bill.

"It's taken Shynerra's mom a long time, and she's still not over it yet," Ms. Brown said. "She still has really not found closure. The fact that she will see the bill that she really pushed for become law, I think, might help her to see some closure. It means a great deal to me to have been able to accomplish this for her."

Also expected to attend today's bill-signing ceremony are Elizabeth Deal, of Oregon, whose daughter Christina, 18, was killed by a former boyfriend in 2003, Johanna Orozco, of Cleveland, who survived being shot in the face by an ex-boyfriend, and several representatives of domestic violence organizations.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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