Springfield lawmakers push for passage of Destiny’s Law

Destiny and Randi Shepherd. Todd Jackson/Staff

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Destiny and Randi Shepherd. Todd Jackson/Staff

Bill could create harsher penalties for criminals who permanently disable victims.

Destiny’s Law, which would create harsher penalties for criminals who permanently disable victims of abusive violence, is back in the hands of Ohio legislators after it failed to be passed by the Ohio Senate in 2014.

The proposal comes in two bills, one in the state’s House of Representatives, Bill 30, and the other in the Senate, Bill 20. The proposed legislation as it is drafted in House Bill 30 would add 3-8 years to the sentence of people convicted of assaulting a child younger than the age of six, while the bill in the Senate does not include an age limit.

RELATED: Clark County mom fights for stricter child abuse laws

The law was inspired by Clark County resident Destiny Shepherd, who suffered permanent brain damage from an incident in 2006 when her mother’s then-boyfriend, Terrance King, shook the then-16-month-old and threw her against a wall. King was convicted of felonious assault and child endangering and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Destiny’s mother, Randi Shepherd, believes that King’s sentence was too lenient and has been fighting to pass the law since 2007, stating that more than half of her child’s brain was damaged in the incident, which could have left her in a vegetative state.

“I always try to tell her (Destiny) that if you can go through what you went through, I can do this for you and for other people,” Shepherd said.

Both bills are currently going through multiple hearings and are being spearheaded by state legislators who represent Springfield, Rep. Kyle Koehler and Sen. Bob Hackett.

READ MORE: Billboards erected to promote Destiny’s Law

Koehler, who first heard of Destiny’s story back in 2014 when running for office, says that it is difficult for perpetrators who cause permanent harm to their victims to receive proper justice under current assault laws.

“In the case of shaken baby syndrome or in the case of Destiny, the perpetrator was not trying to kill the child, but what resulted was something horrific,” Koehler said. “Prosecutors are locked into a certain sentencing structure if they can’t prove pre-mediated murder.”

Shepherd testified for both bills on Feb. 21, appearing in front of the House Criminal Justice Committee during proponent testimony and at a Senate opponent testimony later that day.

Opponents of both bills have stated that the legislation should not pass, claiming that it can contribute to prison overcrowding and that it could cost the state too much money.

“It makes me feel pretty sad that it’s all about money and not someone else’s life,” Shepherd said.

Koehler has stated that he hopes that both bills move as quickly as possible but also said that this can be a long process and can take more than six months to be completed.

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