HILLSDALE, N.J. -- A measure that would amend state law to require life imprisonment without parole for anyone convicted of murder of a minor under 18 years old while committing a sex crime drew closer to reality on Monday.
The legislation, already approved by the Assembly, was advanced to the full Senate by its Judiciary Committee in Trenton.
The original meaure is known as Joan's Law, for 7-year-old Joan D’Alessandro of Hillsdale, who was raped and killed by a neighbor while selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door in 1973. It applied to anyone convicted of killing a victim under 14 years old during a sex crime.
If the full Senate approves the amendment, and Gov. Christie signs it into law, the measure would deny parole to anyone convicted of murdering a victim under 18 years old while committing a sex crime.
Joan's mother, Rosemarie D'Alessandro, has been pushing for that change through her non-profit Joan's Joy foundation since 2010.
Her son, Michael, asked that citizens call to state Sen. President Stephen M. Sweeney's office at (856) 251-9801 or (856) 339-0808 to request that he post it for a Senate vote.
“My sons Michael, John and I are filled with joy today,” Rosemarie D’Alessandro said after testifying before the Senate Judicial Committee.
“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," she said. "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.”
Ordinarily, murder is a first-degree crime punishable in New Jersey by 30 years of imprisonment without parole or by a specific term between 30 years and life, of which the defendant must serve 30 years before being eligible for parole.
“The monster who brutally raped and murdered little Joan D’Alessandro has been up for parole four times,” state Sen. Dawn 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.”