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Washington County woman pledges continued push for tougher child-abuse penalty

'Justice's Law' bill never came to a vote in committee

'Justice's Law' bill never came to a vote in committee

April 09, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- A local push in Annapolis for a tougher child-abuse penalty failed this year, but a disappointed member of the Washington County family behind the effort promised to keep trying.

"They have not heard the last of us," Dee Myers said Tuesday, the day after the 2008 legislative session ended with the bill stuck in a House committee.

Her grandson, Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, was 4 months old when he was shaken to death in January 2007.

The bill, called "Justice's Law," would have raised the maximum prison sentence for abuse that causes a child's death to life from 30 years.

It was heard on Feb. 21, but the House Judiciary Committee never voted on it -- a decision the chairman may make.

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Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who sponsored the bill, said he was disappointed because he thought he had enough committee votes for the bill to pass and make it to the House floor.

The committee chairman, Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Calvert/Prince George's, did not return a message for comment left at his House office on Tuesday.

The only opposition when the bill was heard in February was from a district public defender in Prince George's County, who said the proposed penalty for a death that might not have been intentional would be higher than it is for some intentional killings.

Although Shank told the family the bill wouldn't be an easy sell, Myers said, "I think we were all praying and hoping."

Floyd Edward Bingaman III, a former boyfriend of Justice's mother, was sentenced on Jan. 3 to 30 years in prison for Justice's death.

Bingaman previously was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, first-degree child abuse and second-degree assault.

He was found not guilty, though, of first- and second-degree murder.

Authorities have described Justice's death as one of the worst local child-abuse cases in many years.

Two days after the sentencing, at a public meeting about the upcoming legislative session, some of Justice's relatives spoke in favor of creating a tougher penalty.

Shank filed a bill with that goal.

He noted Tuesday that a bill strengthening laws regulating sex offenders failed on its first try, then passed the next time.

He expects to rally broader statewide support next year for Justice's Law.

In an e-mail, Myers wrote, "We will be going back next year stronger and better and ready to take a stand once more against child abuse. ... [I]f we have to fight for the next ten years we will, but we will not stop until Justice's Law is passed. ..."

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