Gov. Laura Kelly celebrated signing of legislation Wednesday improving flow of information to victims of domestic violence about release from jail of the offenders and to restrain power of judges to reduce sentences of adults convicted of sex crimes against youth.
She also welcomed supporters of a new law instituting the first-in-the-nation task force to guide application of DNA evidence in criminal cases. In addition, she was joined by Kansans eager for implementation of stiffer penalties for involuntary manslaughter and abuse of a child when the victim was under six years of age.
Kelly said the domestic violence law resulted from the Oct. 6, 2018, slaying of Kristin Leigh Floria, a Wichita mother of six who was shot and killed by her estranged husband. The gunman, Randy Gile, had been charged with seven crimes, but was released from jail without notice to Floria. Gile ran Floria's vehicle off the road and shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.
The new Kansas law mandates law enforcement officers notify domestic violence victims in advance of a perpetrator's release.
"This is a good step forward for victims," Kelly said. "The death of a child is, as a parent, what we fear most. It is especially tragic when their young lives are cut short due to violence."
Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said he was enthusiastic about the Legislature's support and Kelly's signature on a measure preventing state judges from lowering prison sentences for adult sex offenders because a victim younger than 14 years was classified by the court as an "aggressor" who in some manner contributed to the crime.
"It's good for the community to show we want to protect our kids," Thompson said at the Capitol.
The same statute, endorsed by Attorney General Derek Schmidt, made the departure factor unavailable to judges when human trafficking victims were involved regardless of their age.
A judge in Leavenworth County created a controversy by reducing the sentence imposed on a 67-year-old man who was convicted of committing a sex crime against a 13-year-old girl.
Sen. David Haley, D-Kansas City, said he was pleased the governor signed a bill creating the state's closed case task force. The legislation introduced by Haley would improve DNA usage to accurately identify criminals or exonerate the innocent.
"Under current law, DNA results are not matched with closed cases," Haley said. "This will allow for those who are innocent and incarcerated to be freed and those who actually committed the crime to be caught."