Street musicians may soon turn 'pro'
Singing in the rain, dancing in the streets and paying the piper would become easier in Maryland under the terms of a law passed by the House of Delegates yesterday.
The bill is an amended version of one sponsored by Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski, D-City. The original bill rescinded a prohibition on musicians who perform in public places in Baltimore from soliciting money from listeners.
Under current law, this can be done in Maryland only when it is on behalf of a charity.
But the "street performer bill" was amended in the House by Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Balto. Co., to extend it across the state, essentially repealing the ban altogether.
"There are a lot of places in the state where musicians play for whatever people will give them and I think it's a shame to make that a crime," LaMotte said.
The bill passed 110-16 and now goes back to the Senate where the changes can be accepted or a committee appointed to work out the differences with the Senate version.
A House of Delegates committee chairman has proposed legislation to undo in Maryland what he called "a bad, bad decision" by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"My bill would say you could not use forced confessions in any trial in Maryland," Del. John S. Arnick, D-Balto. Co., said after the House voted yesterday to allow the bill to be introduced late in the 90-day legislative session.
Use of a confession that was obtained through force or coercion would be automatic grounds for reversal of a guilty verdict, the House Judiciary Committee chairman said.
The 5-4 Supreme Court decision issued last week said introduction of a coerced confession as evidence at a trial may be harmless error that does not automatically require a new trial. The court said a conviction can stand if there is sufficient other evidence to prove that a defendant is guilty.
Prior to the ruling, use of a coerced confession was cause to overturn a conviction, no matter what other evidence existed.
The decision was welcomed by many prosecutors and the Justice Department, which filed a brief and gave oral arguments on the case.
But Arnick said the decision opens the door to police abuse of criminal suspects.
"It's an invitation to see how far you can go," he said. "Is threatening to beat somebody going too far? Is beating somebody going too far?"