Is It Time To Strengthen New Jersey’s Domestic Violence Laws?
The brutal December 18 murder of New Jersey mother of two Tara O’Shea-Watson at the hands of her estranged husband and accused killer, Jeremiah Monell, is a tragedy beyond all belief. In the aftermath of Monell’s arrest following a two-week long manhunt, friends of O’Shea-Watson are now pointing to a proposed domestic violence bill before the New Jersey Legislature that they say may have kept O’Shea-Watson safe, and alive.
The bill — known as Lisa’s Law — calls for a four-year pilot program in Ocean County to provide electronic/GPS monitoring of certain domestic violence offenders who have violated their restraining orders. The system would alert victims and law enforcement if the offender comes within an established perimeter, like the victim’s home. The cost of putting in place the system has been estimated at about $2.5 million. If the pilot program is successful, legislation could expand it to other counties, including Cumberland County, where O’Shea lived. O’Shea had a final restraining order in place against Monell at the time of her death. According to reports, O’Shea had suffered extreme abuse and physical by her husband; Monell had been served with divorce papers on the day police say he killed her.
“Lisa’s Law” is named for Letizia Zindell, a Toms River woman who was killed by her former fiancé in 2009 — one day after he was released from jail for violating a restraining order she had filed against him. If the name of the bill sounds familiar, it is because this is a repeat attempt to have the proposed legislation signed into law. Governor Christie “pocket vetoed” an earlier version of the bill in January 2016, even after it received unanimous Senate and Assembly approval. In a statement issued at the time of his veto, Christie said the program “could give victims a false sense of security.”
“I continue to applaud the sponsors’ attention to both the need to protect victims of domestic violence and the possibilities for using new technologies to create safer communities; however this avenue is not yet reliable enough to journey down,” Christie wrote at the time.
Bari Weinberger, speaking out in a new NJ101.5 report on Lisa’s Law and its role in protecting victims caught in dire situations, has a different perspective on the pilot program. If it has the potential to help victims like Tara O’Shea-Watson, then she says New Jersey has an obligation to give it a try.
As Bari stated, “if we have that ability and we have that advancement, test it, see if it works, if there’s an opportunity for further protection, use it.”
She also added that the electronic monitoring bill “has the potential to make New Jersey a leader in using technology to protect people from being re-victimized. We’re in a technically advanced phase of our day in age. Why aren’t we putting these parameters in place?”
Bill A-315, the current version of Lisa’s Law making its way through the Legislature. passed an Assembly committee in October, but has yet to come up for a vote before the full Assembly.
What’s your take on Lisa’s Law? Could it help in the future to prevent another tragedy from occurring in New Jersey? Here’s how to let your legislators or the governor know where you stand:
Contact Your New Jersey State Legislators
Contact Governor Chris Christie
Help for Domestic Violence
For immediate assistance in locating a shelter or other crisis resources, call the 24-hour New Jersey Statewide Domestic Violence Hotline: 1 (800) 572-SAFE (7233). If you are in immediate danger, call 911.