The Senate Judiciary Committee (JUDY) met Wednesday morning to discuss two bills aimed at more thoroughly prosecuting those who commit “aggravated child abuse.”
Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) spoke before the committee today on “Winston’s Law,” SB23, which will make aggravated child abuse of children between infancy and six years old a Class A felony.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to come here today and even talk about this issue,” Chambliss said. “But it’s reality.”
The bill is named for a 4-year-old boy named Winston, who was found nearly comatose in a car where his mother’s boyfriend had taken him to a court hearing.
“It’s the worst case of child abuse I’ve ever seen where the child lived,” said District Attorney Randall Houston, who referenced pictures of the child too disturbing to be viewed by the public.
Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile) encouraged that the age limit be increased to protect more children.
“When a child has been subjected to aggravated abuse, it should be life without parole,” Figures said through tears. “Because you have given that child a life sentence, people who go through that will suffer from the residual of that for years to come.”
A second bill, SB22, would make death in cases of aggravated child abuse eligible for a murder conviction.
Currently, offenders can find leeway in the fact that the intent of child abuse may not be to kill the child, but Assistant District Attorney Jessica Ventiere believes that death in cases of child abuse should warrant more than a manslaughter charge.
She referenced the case of “Ava,” who said is “forever four years old” after a kicking death at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend.
The bill would provide prosecutors with the ability to provide lengthier sentences to offenders in cases such as this.
The committee voted unanimously to provide a favorable report on both bills, which will make their way to the legislature soon.