Cassie Johnson’s law takes effect in W.Va.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - A new law affecting perpetrators in officer-involved shootings took effect on Sunday, just two days after the shooting death of W.Va. State Police Sgt. Cory Maynard.
‘Cassie Johnson’s Law’ steps up the penalties for those involved in a first responder’s death. In the case of Johnson, prosecutors had a difficult time proving that her killing was premeditated and eventually resorted to seeking a lesser, second-degree murder charge. The Charleston Police Officer died after responding to a parking compliant.
While prosecutors could not prove that the perpetrator had planned to kill Johnson in that case, they will have an additional tool at their disposal the next time. ‘Cassie Johnson’s Law’ is an obstruction charge specifically for law enforcement and first responders. The charge requires prosecutors to prove the person “knowingly, willfully, and forcibly obstructed a first responder acting in their official capacity and caused their death.”
“The unfortunate killing of Cassie Johnson left prosecutors without a real powerful tool to go after the perpetrator who caused her death,” said Del. Todd Kirby, (R) Raleigh County, on the impetus for the bill.
Now, those found guilty of the new law could face a stiffer prison sentence of 15 years to life.
“It enhances the penalty for not only police but all first responders. It shows that the legislature, the governor, and the powers that be have a real appreciation for what we see and what we do,” said Raleigh County Sheriff J.C. Canaday.
When responding to an emergency, Sheriff Canaday said it is not always clear which agency is going to show up first and that is why he appreciated the fact that legislators included first responders in the bill.
Del. Kirby hopes the measure sends a strong message to those on the front lines.
“I think laws like these reinforce the fact that we’re going to protect the men and women who serve our communities. They’re on the front lines every day. It should be an inhibitor to those who think about doing something like this in the future.”
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