(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Angelica Jimenez to amend a state law outlining the penalty for murdering a minor while in the act of committing a sex crime against him or her was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The bill (A-373) 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, as is the case with the aforementioned law.
"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 state law regarding the murder of a child in the course of the commission of a sex crime 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 was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.