A piece of legislation that grew out of the horrific crimes of David Renz has died in the State Assembly.
W hen Renz murdered Lori Bresnahan and raped a 10 year old girl last year, he had escaped from home confinement while awaiting trial on child pornography charges. It wasn't until after Renz's arrest that a woman contacted CNY Central's Jim Kenyon to say she had been sexually assaulted by Renz when he was a teen. T
T he Family Court records of that prior sex crime had been sealed, even to county and federal prosecutors. Many now believe that if prosecutors had access to those Family Court records, Renz would never have been placed in home confinement and Bresnahan may be alive today.
T he idea behind sealing Family Court records is the belief that a person shouldn't have to pay the consequences for the rest of his or her life for a youthful mistake.
B ut a bill that passed the State Senate overwhelmingly on Wednesday would establish procedures to give authorities access to the Family Court histories of defendants accused of sex crimes. The bill is the direct result of the case of David Renz, but it died in the State Assembly. That comes as no surprise to Chief Assistant District Attorney Rick Trunfio. He told Kenyon Friday, "That's pretty typical for any pro-law enforcement or any sensible bill with regard to crime legislation. The Senate usually passes it overwhelmingly, bi-partisanly and then it stalls in the Assembly."
T runfio says the Family Court Access bill has broad support by law enforcement and will resurface next year. But he says it may become a bargaining chip as some lawmakers in Albany attempt to raise the "age of criminal responsibility." Currently in New York, a criminal must be at least 16 years old before he or she can be charged as an adult. Some legislators want to raise that age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old.
" O ur access to juvenile records is important particularly in light of the fact that there is a push in Albany to raise the level of juvenile offenders we can prosecute as adults. It makes absolutely no sense for us to raise the level of juvenile offenders and holding them accountable and not have access to their prior history." Trunfio said.
T runfio says the State Association of District Attorneys will meet next month. He says the Family Court Access bill as it relates to the age of criminal responsibility will become a priority issue.
The bill was sponsored in the Assembly by Asasembly member Al Stirpe. Stirpe says, "There are a lot of concerns among members in the Codes Committee who are very adverse to opening the records of minors."