Wisconsin is one of only a few states that grants immunity to family members of a murder suspect who lie to police to protect their relative. That would change under a law just introduced in the state legislature.
If passed, backers of the bill want it named “Joey's Law,” in honor of a young man killed in Oak Creek in a gang-related shooting in 2000.
Joey George was killed in a drive-by shooting when he was mistaken for a rival gang member outside a bar. Relatives of the shooter hid him in their house when police were searching for him but faced only minor charges for their actions.
George's grandmother, Shirley George, says adding her grandson's name to a change in the law will send an important message. “It's been proven when the public hears 'Adam's Law' or 'Jessica's Law,' it automatically alerts everyone as to the exact offense of that law. If treated this same way, this new law will alert everyone that there is now a greater penalty for aiding and abetting.”
That greater penalty would come in the form of treating family members the same way a non-relative is treated for hiding a suspect, allowing them to be sentenced to up to ten years in prison, instead of the current three and half years.
Rock County District Attorney Jerry Urbik says there have been dozens of cases in recent year where family members have avoided serious penalties for hiding a relative from police. “Every day that we do not have a bill like this enacted is another day where — potentially — a person gets away with a robbery, a murder or a sexual assault,” Urbik says, “because they're helped, assisted by a relative who has no fear of prosecution on a felony offense.”
Domestic abuse prevention advocates are asking for an amendment to the bill that would grant an exception to spouses or children who hide a suspect because they've been threatened with violence if they turn them in.