- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (AP) - A change in Illinois law could help families fighting to learn the truth about the death of a loved one by strengthening the state’s freedom of information act and allowing more time to file wrongful death lawsuits.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the legislation into law Tuesday during a visit to Murphysboro in southern Illinois.

“Today is an important day for Illinois families seeking justice,” Rauner said in a news release. “This bill provides families a longer timeframe to bring wrongful death actions against perpetrators of intentional violent crimes and gives families access to the necessary public information to find closure in a loved one’s death.”

The measure increases fines to $10,000 for public bodies that fail to comply with court orders to release records under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, and the statute of limitations on wrongful death lawsuits increases from two years to five.

The measure has been dubbed “Molly’s Law” for Molly Young, a Carbondale woman who died in 2012 of a gunshot wound to the head in her boyfriend’s apartment. A special prosecutor could not determine whether the death was an accident, suicide or homicide.

Her father, Larry Young, has fought to obtain police records in the case. In February, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office ordered the Illinois State Police to provide him with photos from its investigation of his daughter’s death.

That ruling by the state Public Access Bureau marked the third time the branch of the attorney general’s office concluded that state or Carbondale police violated Illinois public records laws by denying Young’s requests. But meanwhile, time ran out for him to take civil action.

On Tuesday, Young said the new law was “a step in the right direction.”

“More transparency and the victim’s family being able to find the truth to what really happened,” Young said in a telephone interview.

State Rep. Terri Bryant, a Murphysboro Republican, announced the legislation in February to help families in similar situations.

“If we have a situation again where somebody doesn’t get all the information prior to that two years expiring - they are still going to have the opportunity to look at the evidence and take that forward in a decent amount of time,” Bryant said during the announcement in February.

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The bill is HB6083

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