One of Shank's four criminal justice bills could pass

April 07, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |
  • Shank

ANNAPOLIS — One of Sen. Christopher B. Shank's package of criminal justice bills has a chance of passing the Maryland General Assembly — if time doesn't run out first.

Shank, R-Washington, and Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, worked together on a "Swift and Certain Sanctions" bill pushing for quicker, fairer sanctions for parole and probation violators.

The House and Senate have each passed a version of the bill. The question is if there's enough time before the session ends Monday night to pass the same bill in both chambers.

Three other criminal justice bills Shank backed, including a stiffer penalty for fatal child abuse, will fail this session without a vote in committee.

This was the fourth straight year Shank tried to gain passage of  the child-abuse bill called Justice's Law, named after an infant shaken to death in Washington County in 2007.

The other two failed bills would have started a pilot program for lowering recidivism and created a new crime for supplying controlled dangerous substances to a minor that caused death.

The recidivism program called for the state to monitor offenders' needs and risks to keep them from committing more crimes.

The recidivism bill, seen as complementary to the parole and probation proposal, was voted down by a House committee last month.

The parole and probation bill initially ran into opposition from the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, which was concerned about the possible cost.

Shank said Thursday that much of the cost estimate was based on the idea that new employees were being proposed, but that wasn't true.

Under the bill, the parole and probation program would be piloted in two undetermined counties.

Justice's Law was pushed by the family of 4-month-old Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, who was shaken to death in 2007. Floyd Edward Bingaman III was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison, the maximum penalty.

Justice's family and Shank have pressed to increase the maximum penalty to life in prison.

Previously, in the House, Shank has run into resistance from the Judiciary Committee chairman, Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., D-Calvert/Prince George's, who has said judges already have an adequate punishment to impose.

But Shank said it's difficult in a shaken-baby case to get a murder conviction, which requires proof of intent.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, the chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said in a recent interview that there's a good reason for distinguishing crimes of intent and crimes of passion.

Shank said there was discussion this year about increasing the maximum penalty from 30 years to 40 years, but he and the Myers family didn't accept it.

The fourth bill was connected to the 2007 death of Harry L. Angle III of Boonsboro after he took methadone and alcohol. A man and a woman were convicted of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

The bill would have designated a new felony charge, with a maximum 20-year prison sentence, when a minor dies after using drugs obtained from an adult.

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