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Alabama approves landmark bill in tribute to Aniah Blanchard 

Walt Harris with wife, Angela and stepdaughter, Aniah
Walt Harris with wife, Angela and stepdaughter, Aniah
Anwesha Nag
Modified 21 Feb 2020

A bill has been approved by the House Committee of Alabama, which would allow judges the judiciary to detain felons accused of committing violent Class A offenses without bail.

The bill, tagged House Bill 81, is named Aniah's law after Aniah Blanchard, the stepdaughter of UFC Heavyweight fighter Walt Harris. The 19-year-old was kidnapped from a convenience store in Auburn and was then murdered.

The story was originally published at the Montgomery Advertiser, part of the USA TODAY network.

Angela Harris: We have to save a lot of lives

Blanchard was last seen on October 23 at the convenience store, where a witness saw an individual later identified as Ibraheem Yazeed, force her into her self-driven vehicle, a black 2017 Honda CRV. He remains were discovered a month later from a wooded area in Macon County, 40 miles away from the store.

Yazeed was accused and out on bond of $295,000 for already existing charges of attempted murder, battery charges, kidnapping and possession of Marijuana when he kidnapped and killed Blanchard. According to the current rules of the Alabama constitution, everyone is allowed bail "unless the person is charged with a capital offense and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption of guilt is great".

Yazeed is now being held without bail.

Blanchard's mother, father, and stepmother were present at the hearing when the bill was passed on Wednesday. They made short statements before the committee voted on the matter.

Blanchard's mother, Angela Harris said that she is doing this for her daughter and for everyone in the community, according to ABC Birmingham affiliate WBMA.

"Aniah’s name being on this bill is something that means everything to me because my daughter meant something. And she would be fighting for this. She’s speaking to me and telling me to fight for this. We have to save other people and do everything we can to prevent this from happening to other people."

Aniah's father, Elijah Blanchard, said it would bring him relief to see it to the end, as it would mean more safety for the kids of other parents out there.

"It would bring so much relief, and other parents would not have to go through the tragedy I suffered with my baby girl."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Chip Brown, R-Mobile, is a constitutional amendment and will now go to Senate for further approval. If enacted, it will allow prosecutors to demand denial of bail for Class A felons, "if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to the accused, the public, or both, ensure the presence of the accused at trial, or ensure the integrity of the judicial process". The final decision of grant or denial would lie with the judges. 

Published 21 Feb 2020, 14:54 IST
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