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Fighting child abuse helps Justice's family heal

Online petition asks for tougher penalties for offenders

Online petition asks for tougher penalties for offenders

January 30, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Changing Maryland's child abuse penalties won't bring back Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, the 4-month-old who died in January 2007 of head injuries inflicted by his mother's boyfriend.

But for Justice's family, fighting for tougher penalties for child abuse is a way of healing and bringing something positive out of a tragedy, his grandmother, Michelle Spessard, said Tuesday.

"I don't think we'll ever be healed completely, but we can have something to look forward to, finishing this law for our grandson," Spessard said.

The family has collected more than 1,200 signatures on an online petition for legislation toughening penalties for child abuse resulting in death. On weekends, family members have been handing out cards with the petition's address in malls and public places across the state, said Spessard, whose son, Christopher Cannon, is Justice's father.

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Throughout the trial of Floyd Edward Bingaman III, family members were repeatedly told they had a strong case for first-degree murder, buoying their hopes for a sentence of death or life in prison, said Justice's grandfather, Bob Spessard.

Instead, Bingaman was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 30 years.

Two days after the sentencing, the day Cannon was due to return to Louisiana, where he was stationed with the Air Force, he and Bob Spessard decided to get up early and speak to state delegates who were holding a public meeting at a local high school.

"It was just something Chris could do for his son, and nobody could take it away," Bob Spessard said.

The family heard back from Del. Christopher Shank within days, and then, within three weeks, the legislation was introduced.

"We're amazed at how fast it happened," Bob Spessard said.

Justice's Law would increase the penalty for child abuse resulting in death to life in prison, something the Spessards said was important to keep child abusers behind bars.

"I don't think it would have prevented what happened to Justice, but we're trying to keep these people off the streets," Michelle Spessard said. "Hopefully we can make a difference in some other people's lives."

The family's petition is online at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/justiceslaw08.

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