Chicago Appleseed and Chicago Council of Lawyers have joined an amicus curiae brief in the Illinois Supreme court case of People v Matthew Gray. The brief was authored by LAF and Dentons US LLP and we are grateful for their work and the opportunity to join the brief.
The Defendant, Matthew Gray, was convicted on two counts of aggravated domestic battery and one count of aggravated battery for an attack against a women he had dated for two years, fifteen years ago. Testimony indicated that the parties had an on-going friendly relationship but that the defendant considered another woman to be his current girlfriend.
Gray was convicted under Illinois domestic battery statutes 720 ILCS 5/12-3.2 and 720 ILCS 5/12-3.3. Section 12-0.1 et seq. defines the terms used in the statute and includes the following language:
“Family or household members” include spouses, former spouses, parents, children, stepchildren, and other persons related by blood or by present or prior marriage, persons who share or formerly shared a common dwelling, persons who have or allegedly have a child in common, persons who share or allegedly share a blood relationship through a child, persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship, persons with disabilities and their personal assistants, and caregivers as defined in Section 12-4.4a of this Code. For purposes of this Article, neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship.
The Appellate Court concluded that this statute was unconstitutional as applied to Gray because he had not dated the victim for many years. The issue is now before the Illinois Supreme Court and we have joined LAF and Dentons in arguing that the conviction was proper and in support of Illinois’ expansive domestic battery statutes. The amicus brief focuses on how—in drafting the statute—the legislature intentionally included former relationships and chose not to define the relationship in terms of duration nor limit the definition to recent relationships or those within a specified range of time.
This is an intentionally expansive definition which serves a particular purpose in relation to the State’s interest preventing domestic violence. The brief cites research showing that when a relationship is abusive, violence tends to escalate over the course of the relationship and that victims face increased danger during and after a break-up. Severing of the romantic relationship does not create a barrier to domestic violence, a fact acknowledged in the statute’s inclusion of former partners and household members.
The statute is evidence-based and rationally constructed to match the reality of domestic violence. The brief discusses in detail the unique features of domestic violence and how its perpetrators exploit the familiarity and trust of the relationship. The expansive definitions of the Act work to protect against this particular form of violence.
The amicus brief also underscores how the appellate court’s ruling not only makes it harder for persons at risk of abuse to obtain a civil protection order but also diminish the value of that order. Only last year the Appellate Court wrote: “The devastating and horrific effects of domestic violence on women, children, and families led to the Act, a law that seeks to provide victims of domestic violence with the highest level of protection possible.” The expansive definitions written into the law, and advocated for in the brief, are necessary to bring the highest level of protection possible.
Other signatories to the amicus are Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, Between Friends, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, and The John Marshall Law School Domestic Violence Clinical Advocacy Program.