Family members disappointed to miss signing of Justice's Law

May 04, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

For Christopher Cannon, the satisfaction of knowing the Maryland General Assembly passed a child-abuse bill in memory of his late son was tempered by his disappointment in missing the bill-signing ceremony.

Cannon, 25, said he’s stationed with the U.S. Air Force in Germany. Using leave time, Cannon returned to the U.S. almost three weeks ago, solely to see the bill signed into law.

But Cannon and his parents, Bob and Michelle Spessard of Greencastle, Pa., said they found out the bill was signed on Wednesday through a Herald-Mail story posted online that night.

Spessard said she had asked the offices of Sen. Christopher B. Shank and Del. Neil C. Parrott, the Senate and House sponsors of the bill, to contact her about the event and was upset they didn’t.

Seeing the bill signed into law “would have helped with the healing process,” she said.

The bill was called Justice’s Law, after Justice Christopher Calvin Cannon-Myers, a 4-month-old boy shaken to death in 2007.

In 2008, family members and Shank began pushing for the maximum sentence for fatal child abuse to increase from 30 years to life in prison.

This year, in their fifth try with the bill, supporters settled for a maximum sentence of 40 years. The bill passed.

Bob Spessard said Parrott met with his family Friday morning and apologized for the communication breakdown.

Parrott said in a voice-mail message later in the day that his legislative aide was off last week, which might have been why his office didn’t connect with the Spessards.

Dee Myers, Justice’s maternal grandmother, said she and Shank learned Tuesday that Justice’s Law would be among the bills signed on Wednesday.

Shank said he notified Myers, who has been a family leader in recent years for pushing for the bill to pass.

Typically, Myers spreads news she gets about the bill from Shank to others closely associated with the case, starting with Justice’s mother, Ashley Brown. The Spessards are not part of that network.

The governor, the House speaker and the Senate president usually hold three bill-signing events after the annual legislative session has adjourned, starting with one on the day after the session is over.

When she heard on Friday that Cannon and the Spessards were upset about missing the bill-signing event, Myers said she wishes she had known.

“I would have called (them) out of respect,” she said.

Cannon plans to return to his military commitment on Sunday and doesn’t expect to be back for 18 months.

“Although we weren’t there, it’s a great moment (with) the bill being passed,” he said.

Parrott said he felt bad the Spessards didn’t get to the ceremony and has offered to get them a framed copy of the signed bill, with a pen that was used.

The Spessard and Myers families have both been advocates for child-abuse awareness, but mostly along separate paths.

“The best thing is that both families are doing something proactive,” Parrott said.

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