Bill expands “Joan’s Law” to mandate life without parole for murder of a child under age 18 during a sex crime.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has passed legislation sponsored by Senate Republicans Dawn Addiego and Anthony Bucco to eliminate the possibility of parole for anyone convicted of the murder of a minor in the course of a sex crime.
Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego (left) joined Rosemarie D’Alessandro as she testified in support of updates to “Joan’s Law” at the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 13, 2017. (SenateNJ.com)
Since 1997, “Joan’s Law” has mandated “no release” in cases involving a minor under age 14. S-607 extends Joan’s Law to protect victims between the ages of 14 and 18.
“The monster who brutally raped and murdered little Joan D’Alessandro has been up for parole four times,” Senator Addiego (R-Burlington) said. “Anyone who is evil enough to commit such a heinous crime once will have no qualms about victimizing another child, no matter how long they have been in jail. No parent should have to stand up in front of a judge over, and over again trying to convince them of this fact. We will keep fighting on their behalf until every minor receives equal protections under the law.”
Senator Addiego and Joan’s mother, Rosemarie D’Alessandro, both testified in support of the bill at the March 13 Judiciary Committee hearing in Trenton.
“My sons Michael, John and I are filled with joy today,” Rosemarie D’Alessandro said. “This shows how the unity of all those involved through their actions and voices makes a huge difference in the fight for more justice for young, vulnerable victims and their families. Now families will not be burdened by the thought of when the next parole date will be, or having to testify. Joan’s legacy is filled with positive energy. The vote today truly brings hope to New Jersey.”
“Joan’s Law” was named for Joan Angela D’Allesandro, a 7-year-old who disappeared in April 1973 while she was delivering boxes of Girl Scout cookies to a neighbor. The child’s mother, Rosemarie D’Allesandro, spearheaded efforts for a law, signed by then-Gov. Christie Whitman in 1997, mandating life in prison without parole for the killing of children under the age of 14 during a sex crime. This expanded legislation is introduced at Mrs. D’Allesandro’s behest.
Joseph McGowan, a 26-year-old chemistry teacher, pleaded guilty to first-degree felony murder and was sentenced to life in prison for abducting, raping and strangling Joan. In the years since, McGowan, who is still in prison, has had parole hearings on four occasions.
“Joan’s mother turned her grief into a lifetime of advocacy for innocent children, and for 20 years the law named for her daughter has kept convicted child murderers behind bars where they belong,” Senator Bucco (R-Morris) said. “There is always more that we can do to protect our children from sexual predators. Until we reinstate the death penalty, eliminating parole for anyone who rapes and murders a minor is the best way to ensure that these people never see the light of day again.”
1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18, according to the CDC. Teens ages 16 to 19-years-old are 3.5 times more likely to be victims of rape or sexual assault.
Joan’s Law of 1997 was signed 20 years ago on April 3. It was passed by the Assembly on Feb. 17, 2017 and now heads to the Senate floor for final legislative approval. The Senators and Rosemarie D’Alessandro emphasized that the ultimate is to see S-607 signed into law on or before the 20th anniversary of Joan’s Law.
Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and co-sponsor of the bill, was glad to see the legislation move forward. Joan lived in Senator Cardinale’s district, and he attended a parole hearing for McGowan at the request of her family, and implored the board to keep him in prison.
“I’ve seen the devastating impact this killing has had on Joan’s family,” Senator Cardinale said. “They’ve suffered an incredible amount of pain and heartache, and I hope this measure can help prevent that from happening to more families in the future.”
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