'Joan's Law' Honors Girl Scout Who Was Raped, Murdered by Neighbor
Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Angelica Jimenez to amend a state law expanding the penalties for murdering a minor while in the act of committing a sex crime continued advancing on Monday, receiving approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill (A-373), which was unanimously approved by the full Assembly last month, would require life imprisonment without parole for persons convicted of the murder of a minor under the age of 18 during the commission of a sex crime. Current law requires such a penalty only when the victim is under age 14.
"The crimes covered in this legislation are atrocious regardless of the victim's age," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The pain, suffering and anger would continue to manifest every time there is a new parole hearing. No family member should ever be subjected to the painful reminders of such horrifying events. A minor is a minor in all aspects of the law, and this bill eliminates an irrational discrepancy in New Jersey."
Generally, murder is a first-degree crime punishable by 30 years' imprisonment without parole or by a specific term between 30 years and life, of which the defendant must serve 30 years before being eligible for parole. However, there are exceptions to this statutory scheme for certain murders.
"Amending this law is about securing justice for victims of the vilest criminal acts imaginable," said Jimenez (D-Bergen/Hudson). "Anyone who commits these acts of violence against a child deserves nothing less than a lifetime in prison."
Known as "Joan's Law," the legislation honors Joan D'Alessandro, a 7-year-old in Hillsdale who had been selling Girl Scout cookies in 1973 when a neighbor raped and murdered her.
The bill now awaits final legislative approval from the full Senate.