Domestic violence homicides could be tried as first-degree murder cases under bill
Posted April 5
Raleigh, N.C. — When someone is killed by a current or former spouse or partner, the suspect is often charged with second-degree murder. Now, North Carolina lawmakers are considering whether to make some domestic violence homicides a more serious crime.
To convict someone of first-degree murder in North Carolina, prosecutors usually must prove premeditation, meaning the person thought about what he or she was doing before carrying out the crime. The only time that isn't the case is under the felony murder rule, where someone kills another person during the commission of a crime, such as an armed robbery or a rape.
Senate Bill 600, which was filed Tuesday, would add domestic violence homicides to that list in cases where the defendant has a history of domestic violence.
"What we're finding is that men are using the defense of, it was just done in the heat of passion, when there's been a history of domestic violence in that relationship," said sponsor Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, a former prosecutor in Gaston County.
"What this (legislation) says, if the state can prove a history of domestic violence, that constitutes premeditation. So, they can't use the defense of it was just the heat of the moment," Jackson said.
The bill is titled "Britny's Law" in memory of Britny Jordan Puryear, a 22-year-old who was shot and killed by her live-in boyfriend, Logan McLean, in their Fuquay-Varina home on Nov. 6, 2014, after a four-year abusive relationship.
McLean pleaded guilty last year to second-degree murder in the case and is now serving a 32-year prison sentence.
"It only takes one juror to think, 'They were just arguing,' or 'He didn't plan to do it,'" Britny's father, Stephen Puryear, said in a YouTube video urging passage of Senate Bill 600. "In a domestic violence situation, it shouldn't matter how long you thought about it before you kill someone you're supposed to love. You should be charged with first-degree murder and receive a life sentence. This needs to change."
An advocate for domestic violence victims also speaks in the video for the need of tougher sentences in such homicides.
"Life will never be the same, but with your help, we can pass Britny's Law and show the rest of the country that North Carolina takes domestic violence seriously," Stephen Puryear said.