New domestic violence murder legislation

March 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Activists against domestic violence said today they want judges to impose stiffer sentences against abusers. They directed their anger against a San Francisco judge who reduced the sentence of a convicted killer.

"Now why should a person who beats and kills his wife or girlfriend be treated differently from a stranger who kills someone during a robbery?" asked Marily Mondejar, President of the Filipina Women's Network.

Mondejar's group is outraged at a recent decision by Superior Court Judge Jerome Benson to reduce the sentence of William Corpuz, who killed his wife Marisa.

At the time, he was attending counseling after an arrest for domestic violence.

A jury convicted Corpuz of first degree murder, but the judge believed the killing was not deliberate. He reduced Corpuz's sentence to second degree murder and gave him 15, instead of 25 years to life.

District Attorney Kamala Harris is also disappointed.

"I think that case highlighted as many of our domestic violence cases have, the need to make sure our systems are working responsibly," said San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris.

Killings during a robbery, arson, rape or where a gun is used, are automatically first degree murder cases. However the state's so-called violent murder rule, does not apply to those involving domestic violence. Judge Benson even alluded to it during sentencing.

"The legislature has not changed the law of homicide in California relating to domestic violence murder. The legislature could easily do it," said Superior Court Judge Jerome Benson.

But new legislation can be a double edged sword. A tougher sentencing law against those who commit murder in domestic violence cases, could also apply to the victims who kill their abusers.

Those attending this domestic violence briefing say they'll consider appropriate legislation.

They'll also launch a campaign to work with judges under existing laws.

"Encouraging judges to look at how they can interpret the law to do more justice for women and communities in domestic violence and sexual assault," said Beverly Upton for the Domestic Violence Consortium.

District Attorney Harris says she will appeal William Corpuz's reduced sentence.