RALEIGH — Previously convicted domestic violence offenders who are accused of killing their victims could more easily be found guilty of first-degree murder and possibly face the ultimate punishment under a new law in North Carolina.
On Tuesday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed “Britny’s Law,” which creates the presumption that a homicide constitutes the most serious crime if the slaying was committed with malice against a current or former lover, and the defendant has been convicted before of domestic violence, stalking or similar crimes against the victim.
If such conditions are met, then “there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the murder is a willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing,” according to the new legislation, named for Britny Puryear, a 22-year-old who was found shot to death in her Fuquay-Varina home in 2014. Her boyfriend and father of her then-infant son, Logan Connail McLean, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving time in prison.
“Domestic violence is a crime that destroys families and lives,” said Cooper, who was joined by Puryear’s family at the bill signing.
“Too often domestic violence killers escape full justice, because prosecutors struggle to convince juries that these offenders’ crimes meet the definition of first-degree murder under current law. We must keep working to ensure those who commit the crime of domestic violence face the justice they deserve.”
Puryear’s family worked with state legislators and others in the domestic violence prevention community to get the law passed.
“If Britny’s law helps one family not lose a loved one, and makes sure that one murderer never gets out, then all of our time and efforts are worth it,” said Stephen Puryear, Britny’s father.
First-degree murder is punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
Cooper also signed two other pieces of legislation, including a measure to allow domestic violence protective orders granted by a judge to fully go into effect even when they are under appeal. The second measure expands the state’s “revenge porn” law, which prohibits someone from posting nude images of an ex-lover without that person’s consent and with the intent to cause harm, to cases involving strangers.
The General Assembly left more than 110 bills on Cooper’s desk when its work session ended June 30. The governor has until the end of July to sign bills, veto them or let them become law without his signature. Lawmakers have already scheduled a veto-override session for Aug. 3.