Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill Monday that was inspired by the real life experiences of two Connecticut families.
The first part of the bill allows victims to testify in court by video conference, instead of having to confront their abuser face-to-face in a courtroom. The second part of the bill creates standards for local police departments to follow when notifying family members that a loved one has died in a motor vehicle accident.
The first part of the bill was inspired by the murder of Jennifer Magnano of Terryville, who was forced to return to Connecticut to testify in her divorce and custody hearing against her husband.
Rep. William Hamzy, R-Terryville, said when Jennifer returned to Connecticut she was shot by her husband in the front yard of their home. Mr. Magnano then turned the gun on himself.
Rell said the only reason Jennifer came back to the state was so she wasn’t charged with kidnapping their children, who attended Monday’s bill signing ceremony. Rell said if this law had been in place last year, it could have saved her life.
Hamzy said instead of coming back to Connecticut for her court appearance Mrs. Magnano could have gone to her attorney’s office in California where the hearing could have been conducted via video conference. He said the Judicial Branch already has the technology to do this and it would only apply to cases where there is a protective order or restraining order.
Hamzy said the Judicial Branch will be responsible for coming up with the rules under which the program will be administered.
The second part of the bill was inspired by Michelle Saccoccio.
In June 2006 two Enfield police officers showed up at Ava Hill’s door to tell her that her daughter Michelle had been killed in a car crash. But they were unable to give her any more information and it was days before she was even able to see her daughter’s body.
Hill said it was 15-minutes before the wake that she was able to see her daughter for the first time. Rep. Ryan Barry, D-Manchester, who advocated for the bill on behalf of Mrs. Hill, said an internal police investigation found “one hand didn’t know what the other hand was doing.” He said “a lot of excuses were made,” and in the end getting this bill passed and signed turns the tragedy into “something positive.”