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OPINION: State's laws on protection orders need strengthening

The tragic stabbing death of a young Rapid City woman is being used by her family and friends to strengthen what they say are ineffective protection order laws in South Dakota.

The tragic stabbing death of a young Rapid City woman is being used by her family and friends to strengthen what they say are ineffective protection order laws in South Dakota.

Morgan Myers, 30, died after being attacked by a former boyfriend on April 27. Michael Andrew Young stabbed Myers in a public parking lot, despite the permanent protection order against him that Myers obtained a week before her death.

The people who loved her hope to convince state legislators to create new protection order legislation -- which they are calling Morgan's Law -- that would have given Myers better information about her assailant's legal history and, they believe, a better chance of protecting herself against the violence that ended her life.

The changes that Morgan's Law proposes would have mandated the release of information about Young's previous protection orders; any violations of those orders; and previous convictions for major violent offenses. Morgan's Law also would allow the courts to determine those special cases in which an electronic monitoring device should be mandated. That location-detection device could alert victims like Myers that their assailant is in close proximity. A similar law was passed in Kentucky recently.

We don't know if such an electronic monitoring system is a fair, practical or constitutional method of handling some protection order petitions. That's a decision for lawmakers to consider, and we urge them to do exactly that in the coming legislative session.

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There were 812 protection order petitions filed in Pennington County in 2011 and about 400 to date in 2012. Many of those are routinely issued in divorce cases, and wouldn't require the intense scrutiny that Morgan's Law would require.

But other petitions certainly deserve a closer look by the court system before, not after, tragedy strikes. Every day in America, three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Too often, those women had protection orders in place that did nothing to prevent the violence.

Morgan Myers was just the latest victim in South Dakota's long and gruesome history of deaths related to domestic violence. That history should haunt us all. Law enforcement, judicial and elected officials must do more than simply wring their hands in the aftermath of these tragic situations. They must find ways to strengthen protection order enforcement for the next woman who needs it.

We applaud Myers' grief-stricken friends and family for taking a pro-active approach to the issue and we hope state officials will do the same.

Related Topics: CRIME
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