February 11, 1997 in City

Bill Would Widen Death Penalty Murder Of Pregnant Woman Would Be Aggravating Factor

Diane Targovnik Associated Press
 

A person who knowingly kills a pregnant woman could get the death penalty under a bill considered Monday by a Senate committee.

“My daughter has been robbed of raising her children and I have been robbed of being a grandmother,” Sheila Powell said in testimony before the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

Powell’s 18-year-old daughter, Jamie Blevins, was seven months pregnant when she was killed last August. The baby survived and Powell is raising the girl and her 2-year-old brother.

The daughter’s boyfriend, Lenwood Jeffrey McCullum, 19, has pleaded innocent to second-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with the shooting.

Aggravated first-degree murder is the only crime in Washington that carries the death penalty. To impose the death sentence, a jury must decide there was an aggravating circumstance, such as rape, robbery, kidnapping or arson.

Senate Bill 5203 would add knowledge that a female victim was pregnant to that list of circumstances.

The measure would “create a large number of questions,” including how to prove a murderer knew the victim was pregnant, said Kathryn Ross of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

“You can’t always tell a woman is pregnant, especially if she’s very, very huge … and she could be murdered for reasons totally unrelated to her pregnancy,” Ross said.

Another bill considered by the committee would extend the death penalty to people whose victims had restraining orders against them.

That bill, SB5348, also would allow the death penalty if the killer were a family or household member who had previously shown a pattern of harassing, stalking or assaulting the victim.

The committee is expected to hear a bill soon that would allow 16- and 17-year-old criminals to be put to death.

In other matters:

Internet pornography

If state and local government workers are checking out smutty sites on the office Internet account, they may want to stop it.

Government workers caught using their employer’s computer systems to look at pornography on the Internet would face criminal charges under a bill to be considered today by the Senate Government Operations Committee.

Sponsor Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, said Monday he had no way to know how many - or if any - government workers are accessing pornographic sites using the office computer and Internet account.

But he said he suspects the problem could be widespread enough to need a law against it.

The measure was inspired, Oke said, by the disclosure last fall that Kitsap County Commissioner Phil Best had used the county computer system to visit more than 130 adult-oriented sites on the Internet.

Nearly all of the Internet sites show pictures of nude women or couples engaged in sexual acts. Best, 57, whose term runs through 1998, apologized for his behavior but refused to resign.

Oke’s measure, SB5246, would permit authorities to charge government workers with a misdemeanor for accessing porn sites through office equipment or accounts. Pornography would be defined as material that “the average adult person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, when considered as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.”

As far as Oke knows, top state officials, including the governor and legislators, also would be subject to the law.

“That’s something I want to make sure applies” to all elected officials, he said.

Conviction could bring up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Many jurisdictions consider using government computer systems to access pornographic sites to be grounds for employee discipline, including dismissal.

“But we found out after the Kitsap County incident that there are no criminal penalties for this activity,” Oke said.


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