An Illinois lawmaker is advancing legislation, dubbed “Molly’s Law,” that would stiffen penalties against public bodies that fail to comply with orders to release information through the state Freedom of Information Act.
State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, publicly unveiled HB 6083 during an event Saturday at the Carbondale Civic Center. Joining her was Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin, as well as friends and family of the late Molly Young, who was found dead in Carbondale in 2012.
The proposed legislation, which Bryant introduced earlier this month, would penalize public bodies that willfully and intentionally fail to comply with court orders to release information through FOIA can be penalized up to $10,000 for each occurrence. If the public body fails to comply with the court’s order after 30 days, under HB 6083 the court would impose an additional $1,000 penalty for every day the violation continues.
Additionally, the newly introduced legislation changes language in regard to the state’s wrongful death law. Current law states that a wrongful death suit must be brought within two years of the death of a decedent. Bryant’s bill would change the law to say that a lawsuit would be able to be brought within two years after the discovery of evidence that indicates that a wrongful death may have occurred.
The legislation comes in the wake of significant FOIA fights waged by Young’s father, Larry Young, to obtain investigative documents regarding his daughter’s death from both the Carbondale Police Department and the Illinois State Police. Most recently, Larry Young obtained a binding opinion earlier this month from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office concluding that the Illinois State Police had improperly denied him photographs taken at the scene of his daughter’s death.
“Today, I am proud to stand beside Larry Young, Molly Young’s father, who has been fighting since the death of his daughter in 2012 to gain information on the investigation into her death,” Bryant said. “Larry approached me last year with some thoughts on how we can strengthen our laws to aid families dealing with these terrible situations, and I was happy to explore ways in which we could help.”
Young was found dead from a bullet wound to the head in March 2012 in the Carbondale apartment of Richie Minton, her ex-boyfriend and at the time a dispatcher at the Carbondale Police Department. While some evidence in the case has indicated possible suicide, Young’s family has pointed to a host of evidence they say indicates otherwise.
In 2013, an inquest jury was presented with the choices of suicide or homicide and ruled the nature of Young’s death undetermined. Jackson County State’s Attorney Mike Carr announced later that year that he lacked compelling evidence to pursue criminal charges in the case, and a special prosecutor announced a largely similar opinion in late 2014.