Domestic violence testimony protections bill approved in NC Senate

Wednesday, March 29, 2023
She was 'afraid': Durham woman's death puts focus on domestic violence
A Durham family remembers the victim as a caring sister and loving mother who lived in fear -- and has a message for other women trapped in an abusive relationship.

"She had actually feared this."

Victims of alleged domestic violence in North Carolina could testify remotely in criminal proceedings to avoid in-person run-ins with the accused in legislation the Senate approved unanimously on Tuesday.

The measure, which now goes to the House, is named in memory of Kayla Hammonds, who was fatally stabbed outside a grocery store four months ago in Lumberton. Her ex-boyfriend was charged in her murder.

Hammonds' family said recently that some previous criminal charges against the defendant had been dismissed because Hammonds was scared to appear or testify against him.

Senate Bill 51 creates a process by which a victim can testify outside a defendant's presence if a judge determines the victim would otherwise suffer "serious emotional distress" by testifying in the presence of the defendant and have trouble communicating.

The defendant's attorney would be in the same room with the victim during cross-examination.

The bill also would expand the statute of limitations for misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from two to 10 years. And it would place into state law language that makes clear out-of-court statements can be entered into a trial as evidence when an opposing party caused the potential witness not to appear.

Please note: The video attached is about a Durham woman killed in early March. She had protection orders against her alleged abuser.

Who Was Kayla Hammonds

Kayla Hammonds (Photo: Hammonds Family, WPDE)

According to ABC Affiliate WPDE, Kayla Hammonds died after being stabbed while in the parking lot of a Lumberon Food Lion in November 2022. Hammonds filed a protection order against Desmond Sampon in October.

She wrote the following against Sampson in that protection request form:

"10-21-22 Damage property by throwing a brick into the window and flattening tires. 8-13-22 Assault to include breaking finger, assault and battery and sexual assault. Social media: posting nudes and medical records. Threats: slit her throat, kill plaintiff (more than 10 written threats)"

A protection order request filed against Sampson by Hammonds in July of 2021 reads:

"Assaulted, damaged property and theft. Has repeated threatened to kill and burst car tires on July 13, 2021 while was in court for this depo."

Sampson filed a request form seeking protection against Hammonds in August of 2021, but that request was denied. Court records do not detail why.

After her death, some of Hammonds' family and friends told WPDE that Hammonds often took to social media to express her frustration with the judicial system as it related to criminal domestic violence allegations against her by Sampson.

Her cousin, Rev. Rodney Hunt told the station that she feared something bad would happen to her.

"She had actually feared this. This would one day end up happening to her if something wasn't done. Her life was ended sadly."

Who was Nicole Bullock?

On March 5, 2023, Nicole Bullock was killed in Durham. She had two active protection orders on the man, Rodney Crawford who is charged in her murder.

Bullock's sister Lakisha Polte tells ABC11, Bullock expressed her fear of Crawford and what he would do to her.

'I'm afraid. I'm afraid of what he's going to do to me."

WATCH | She was 'afraid': Durham woman's death puts renewed focus on domestic violence

Court documents obtained by ABC11 show Bullock filed a domestic violence protection order in July 2021.

That expired but in April 2022, she filed a new one, which was set to expire in two weeks.

In January, prosecutors say, Crawford broke into Bullock's home and assaulted her.

"He broke her windows out in front of her children," Polite said. "He beat her in front of her children. He got arrested and was on home arrest. But how did he get out that night?"

WATCH | Durham woman's death puts renewed focus on domestic violence

A Durham family remembers the victim as a caring sister and loving mother who lived in fear -- and has a message for other women trapped in an abusive relationship.

Help for those trapped in domestic violence

Safety planning is one thing Nisha Williams recommends.

She is the legal director for the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

"It might be as simple as I'm going to text my sister, 'Hey can you order us pizza tonight?' and that might be the special signal we've established to call for help," Williams said. "The fact that this person encountered multiple restraining orders in their situation is unfortunately something that happens more often than not with survivors."

Its website has a list of every domestic violence crisis center across the state. Those centers can help people file orders of protection as well.

"I can't have my baby sister back, those kids can't have their mom back," said Polite, who helped organize a balloon release for Bullock this past weekend. "We have to reach out to the women all over the world. Young ladies you have to please seek help; it's not right, you have to get help."

It is free to file an order of protection, and if you do it with a domestic violence service provider, they can connect you with a Legal Aid attorney.