ANNAPOLIS -- Two weeks after a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court held that coerced confessions could under some circumstances be admitted as evidence in a trial, the House of Delegates rammed through legislation to prohibit such a practice in Maryland.
The measure, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman John S. Arnick, D-Baltimore County, was approved by the House yesterday, 84-42, despite claims by opponents that the state was acting too hastily.
"I'm personally offended by what that decision appears to say and do," said Delegate Louis L. DePazzo, D-Baltimore County. "But I'm not so sure we know what we're doing."
But Mr. Arnick and other supporters of the bill said it has been standard constitutional law of the nation that coerced confessions were inadmissible as evidence. "A basic constitutional right was overturned. I don't know how the Senate feels about this, but every attorney I know says the decision was wrong," Mr. Arnick said.
"We've had no input from the public," complained Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard, noting the bill received such a late introduction it did not receive the customary public notice and hearing that bills filed earlier receive. "The opinion is only 2 weeks old. It hasn't been analyzed by scholars."
Mr. Arnick replied that if the bill dealt with "a new concept," he would agree, but he said prohibiting introduction of coerced confessions was nothing new.