Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-213

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING THE INHERITANCE RIGHTS OF A BENEFICIARY OR SURVIVOR WHO IS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF MURDER OR MANSLAUGHTER BY REASON OF MENTAL DISEASE OR DEFECT.

Vote Date:

3/11/2016

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/29/2016

File No.:

208

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Sen. Doyle brought the case of Heather Messenger to the attention of the committee. She was killed by her husband, David Messenger, who was later found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Despite the fact that he murdered his wife, he was still able to inherit her estate. Current statute states a murderer who is found not guilty due to mental illness or defect can inherit the estate of the deceased. This bill will amend current law so murderers do not profit from their crimes.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Office of the Victim Advocate, Natasha M. Pierre, Esq: Supports the bill. She refers to the Messenger case, where a woman was killed by her husband, then the husband was found not guilty due to mental disease or defect, and he inherited from his victim's estate.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Doug Dubitsky, State Representative 47th District: Supports the bill. He references the case of Heather Messenger, who was killed in 1998 by her husband, David Messenger, in front of their five year-old child. The murderer was found not guilty due to mental illness or defect. David is now a millionaire due to the money that he attained from Heather's estate following the murder. He notes that under existing law, a person found guilty of murder or first-degree manslaughter is barred from inheriting from the victim's estate, and this bill would bar similar inheritance for killers found not guilty of these crimes due to mental disease or defect.

Hannah Williamson: Supports this bill. Pregnant sister, Heather Williamson (Messenger) was murdered by husband, David Messenger, who was found “Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect”. David hired an attorney that proceeded on behalf of deceased Heather's estate, to sue the home owner policy for wrongful death since there was no law prohibiting it. Everything she had went to the murderer.

Gordon Williamson: Supports this bill. His sister, Heather Williamson (Messenger) was killed by her husband, David Messenger, who was found not guilty due to “incurable mental defect”. Heather's estate went to her murderer, her husband. Wants victims' estates to be protected when something like this happens.

Daniel R. Williamson, Jr.: Supports this bill. His sister, Heather Williamson (Messenger) was killed by her husband, David Messenger, who was found not guilty due to “incurable mental defect”. Heather's estate went to her murderer, her husband. Notes that this behavior is “almost universally prohibited in civilized societies”. David Messenger then used his victim's estate's resources to pursue his freedom.

John Klar, Esq.: Supports this bill. He is the legal counsel for the Williamson family, though he did represent David Messenger at his arraignment for murder (for bond only). The Messenger's son, who pleased for his father to not kill his mother, is now his adult client. Acknowledges and denies the idea that sometimes killers found insane were victims of abuse by the person they killed.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

NONE

Reported by: David Friedlander

Date: 3/15/2016