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In The News

Jul 21, 2009

AZ – Earlier this month, Governor Jan Brewer signed Kaity’s Law, which broadens the state’s definition of domestic violence to include romantic and sexual relationships. Kaity Sudberry was 17 when she and her parents went to the police station to get a protection order against her ex-boyfriend. Because of the state’s narrow definition of domestic violence, they got only an injunction against harassment – a relatively weak document. Five days later, Kaity was killed by ex-boyfriend Daniel Byrd, who then committed suicide. At the time of Kaity’s death, orders of protection could only be issued in the state to people who were married, had a child, or were related by blood. Kaity’s Law, SB 1088, changed that and also gives law enforcement officers the power to temporarily seize guns from perpetrators if the victim or another person in the household is at risk of serious bodily injury or death, the Arizona Republic reports.

CA – Due to a lack of funding and staff, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca announced last month that the department has stopped analyzing DNA evidence from thousands of rape and sexual assault cases, the Los Angeles Times reports. Just last November, Baca promised to clear the decades-old backlog of evidence and keep up with new testing. Now, the Sheriff’s Department is scrambling to find the resources to make good on that commitment. The Department hopes to be able to use federal grant money this summer and fall to continue DNA testing, but after that funding is even more uncertain.

TN – Nashville police say that former NFL quarterback Steve McNair was shot and killed as he slept on July 4th by his girlfriend, Sahel Kazemi, who then killed herself. Law enforcement authorities believe that Kazemi felt her life was falling apart because of financial problems and had discovered that the married McNair was also seeing another woman, the Washington Post reports. In the week before the murder-suicide, Kazemi had been arrested and charged with driving under the influence. She purchased a gun just days before the murder.

TN – In a two-day killing spree that claimed six victims in Tennessee and Alabama, Jacob Shaffer killed his wife Tracie Shaffer last, “making sure he could get to her without somebody stopping him,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation public information officer Kristin Helm told the Huntsville Times. Jacob Shaffer committed a murder in Huntsville, Alabama, before killing his wife’s brother and father, whose bodies were later discovered in their home in Fayetteville. Shaffer then went to his wife’s home across the street, killing her 16-year-old son and his friend, before killing her. The couple’s four-year-old daughter was in the home, but unharmed.

INDIA – New Delhi’s highest court decriminalized homosexuality earlier this month, in the first decision to directly address rights for gay men and lesbians. India has one of the world’s largest populations of people with AIDS and advocates have worked for decades to promote safer sex practices in a nation where misinformation still dictates some people’s behavior. Well-known chef Ritu Dalmia said in an email to the New York Times that, “I have met women who were forced to sleep with men so that they could be ‘cured’ of homosexuality.” The decision to change Section 377 of India’s penal code only applies to the territory around New Delhi, but advocates believe it may eventually prompt changes to the law nationwide.

SYRIA – A presidential decree has made a “small but significant change” in punishing “honor killings.” Instead of a one-year maximum sentence and no minimum sentence, those convicted of “honor killings” must serve at least two years in prison, the Economist reports. Though human rights experts praise the move as a step forward, Syrian law still accepts the basic notion that men can murder female relatives who have dishonored the family – for example, by having sex outside of marriage or wearing immodest clothes.