Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday signed into law three pieces of legislation designed to crack down on domestic violence.
Under Senate Bill 600, prosecutors can use previous convictions for domestic violence and stalking as evidence of premeditation, allowing them to pursue first-degree murder charges in cases where a domestic abuse victim is killed.
Previously, most domestic violence homicides wound up as second-degree murder cases because the crime was committed during an argument, and it was difficult to prove premeditation.
"Too often, domestic violence killers escape full justice because prosecutors struggle to convince juries that these offenders’ crimes meet the definition of first-degree murder under current law," Cooper said. "We must keep working to ensure those who commit the crime of domestic violence face the justice they deserve."
The legislation 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.
Puryear's family fought for the change, and they joined Cooper during the bill-signing ceremony. The governor handed the pen he used to Puryear's young son, Jordan.
"If Britny's Law helps one family not lose a loved one or makes sure that one murderer never gets out, then all of our time and efforts are worth it," said Stephen Puryear, Britny's father.
Stephen Puryear added that it's even more important for people who see signs of domestic abuse to speak up about it. He said he and his wife weren't even aware McLean was abusive toward their daughter until it was too late.
"After the murder, lots of people came up and started telling things they saw. We just wish people would learn to speak out ahead of time before it gets to murder," he said.
Eighty-two people were killed in domestic incidents statewide last year, and 37 have died so far this year, according to the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Cooper also signed House Bill 343, which allows domestic violence protective orders granted by a judge to take full effect even when under appeal, and House Bill 399, which blocks sharing and posting of private images online without consent, expanding the protections against so-called "revenge porn" adopted two years ago.
"Domestic violence is a crime that destroys families and lives," he said. "These new laws give survivors of domestic violence more ways to protect themselves and law enforcement and prosecutors more tools to hold perpetrators of domestic violence responsible for their crimes."