Three years after yoga studio shooting, my daughter’s death is a call for legislative action | Opinion – Tallahassee Democrat

Posted: November 3, 2021 at 1:49 am


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Jeff Binkley | Your Turn

Watch Video: After Tallahassee yoga studio shooting, yoga practiced downtown

Today marks three years since our daughter Maura lost her life, along with Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, in a hate-motivated shooting at the Tallahassee Hot Yoga Studio. Four other women were also wounded.

Lives, plans and dreams were shattered. Voids created that can never be filled.

Despite the perpetrators documented public history of hatred and unabated criminal behavior toward women and girls, the horrible crimes committed in Tallahassee three years ago today have never been legally identified or officially reported as hate crimes. Maura and the other victims were cruelly attacked for no other reason than being women, but Florida law does not recognize hate crimes against women though it does recognize bias motivation related to race, religion or national origin.

View Gallery: Maura's Voice foundation launch celebration

The victims' stories:

Since 2018, we have worked with legislative sponsors and the Florida Hate Crime Coalition in attempts to amend Floridas Hate Crime Law to include gender (along with gender identity and revised language on disability) in the victim classes for these crimes.This is the type of straightforward technical revision made through dozens of bills filed every year to improve Floridas criminal justice system. Yet, legislative leadership refuses to take action to advance this measure.

Several points, supported by experience and research, have been made repeatedly regarding why a comprehensive hate crimes statute would help protect Floridians.

They are all based on the generally accepted principles that to most effectively address crimes they must be uniformly and correctly reported for what they are, studied and better understood with recognition and penalties commensurate with their harm to individuals and society.

For a summary of this rationale, see https://florida.adl.organd click on initiatives and Florida hate crime coalition.

If what happened to Maura, Dr. Van Vessem and the other victims in Tallahassee while most members of the Legislature were in town for committee meetings, plus the substantial body of information submitted, is not enough to move Floridas Legislature to act and classify gender-motivated hate crimes as what they are we ask that leaders and those who have yet to step forward in support of legislation also consider the following:

Inclusive hate crime laws, in combination with best practices by law enforcement and the courts system, could have prevented what happened here on Nov. 2, 2018, and can prevent future violent crimes against women, girls (and others) from happening.

The perpetrator was charged twice and convicted once of battery (for inappropriate touching of women) in Leon County. If the Hate Crimes Law in place at the time had included gender, and police and the States Attorneys office had checked the perpetrators on-line, public postings, it would have been clear that he bore hatred and fetishized violent acts toward women.

Back story:

Using threat assessment techniques in evaluation could have identified the degree of risk. Then they could have included a well-documented hate crime charge with battery raising its status from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. This could have resulted in one or more felony convictions, a prison sentence that could have kept him off the streets and prohibition from legally purchasing a firearm (as he did to commit the attacks in Tallahassee).

Of course, no single statutory revision can prevent all violent hate crimes. But formally recognizing and appropriately punishing gender motivated hate crimes can go a long way in better protecting the rights and safety of women and girls in Florida.

Back story:

We ask all members of the Florida Legislature to look in their hearts, open their minds and make 2022 the year that violence against women and girls because of who they are is recognized as the serious crime it so clearly is.Whats stopping you?

Jeff Binkley and his wife, Margaret, are co-founders of Mauras Voice, an organization dedicated to addressing hatred and violence in our society.

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Three years after yoga studio shooting, my daughter's death is a call for legislative action | Opinion - Tallahassee Democrat

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November 3rd, 2021 at 1:49 am

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