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Amy's Law: Mother of murder victim fights for special weight in court sentencing for domestic violence homicides

(WAGM)
Published: Mar. 20, 2017 at 9:04 AM EDT
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It's been almost three years since Barbara Theriault lost her beloved daughter Amy in a domestic violence homicide. Since then, she has not stopped fighting for justice for her daughter and is working to change how incidents like this are handled in the future.

"After Amy died, we were dealing with the legal system...which probably kept me going and thinking I've got to fight for justice...but after the court trial in 2016 in June, I started to realize that this is it. And I want to say Christmas of 2016 was one of the hardest of my life...because I come to realize she's gone and she's not coming back. So we have to keep getting up and keep finding purpose to get on with or lives...because I can't give up because that means he won," said Theriault.

And so, she's not. Theriault and her family members recently worked with Maine Senator Troy Jackson to introduce a bill that would impose an automatic life sentence for anyone convicted of a domestic violence homicide. This past summer, her daughter's murderer Jesse Marquis was convicted of murder and was sentenced to life in prison, but Theriault says it should be mandatory for anyone convicted of a similar crime. Before his trial even happened, the family learned that a plea deal was available for Marquis...and that's why they started fighting. The bill itself didn't pass as the Legislature's Criminal Law Advisory Commission said not every murder deserves a life sentence. However, the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee endorsed an amendment that asks judges in murder sentencings to give "special weight" if "the victim is a family or household member."

"To that end, I think that that is a win and families in the future this may help them when they're talking about plea deals," said Theriault.

Theriault has received support from all over her community and beyond - she even has a letter hand written by Maine's Governor himself. The amendment would be known as Amy's Law if its passed by lawmakers...giving Amy Theriault a legacy in helping future victims and their families.

"I've discovered that there is no closure. This crime lives with me every day. And I do know how difficult it is to go through the process so I had to do something to make this easier for somebody else who might be experiencing this type of legal issue," said Theriault.

Tammy Albert of the Hope and Justice Project has stood by Barbara Theriault and the rest of her family ever since they lost their loved one. She says it's important for Barbara to be Amy's voice.

"She's gonna be someone else's voice that's gonna come to us...or seek our help because they don't know where else to go. And so from awareness, I think comes great change," said Albert.

And for a grieving mother, change is the only thing she can hope for at this point. That, and the hope that one day, she and her daughter will be together again.

"I have a deep faith that I'm gonna see her someday, so that keeps me going," she said.

The amendment still needs to pass the house and the senate, and Theriault is confident that will happen.