Court Decision Welcomed

April 21, 1991

ANNAPOLIS — A Carroll delegate says a U.S. Supreme Court decision last week limiting appeals of criminal convictions should aid his effort to have a similar law passed in Maryland.

The House Judiciary Committee killed a bill last session introduced by Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, intended to prohibit convicts --especially those sentenced to the death penalty -- from filing numerous appeals of verdicts and sentences at taxpayers' expense.

Dixon's bill would have required courts to determine if a convictshould be entitled to free legal assistance from the public defender's office at a stage of the appeals process when it is guaranteed.

The Supreme Court decision could reduce the number of attempts by death row inmates to overturn convictions and sentences. It applies to state prison inmates filing complaints in federal courts about the constitutionality of their verdicts or sentences.

The ruling requires the inmate to raise all pertinent constitutional challenges in an initial complaint to federal court, unless extenuating circumstances can be proven.

Dixon said he will check with the state Attorney General's office to see what effect the Supreme Court's decision will have at the state level. If it does not address his concerns about state inmates prolonging their cases at public expense, he will reintroduce his bill next year, he said.

"The Supreme Court clearly says this is constitutional," he said. "I thought I was on the right track. This puts me on more solid footing."

Dixon said he was not aware that the Supreme Court was considering such a case.

The state public defender's office and Legal Aid Bureau Inc. opposed Dixon's bill, saying it violated basic rights of prisoners.

HOW TO REACH DELEGATION

* Sen. Larry E. Haines, 876-4530 or 876-6564.

* Sen. Charles H.Smelser: (301) 841-3704.

* Delegate Richard N. Dixon: 848-6943.

* Delegate Donald B. Elliott: 848-5373.

* Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte: (301) 461-5548.

* Delegate Richard C. Matthews: 239-3400.

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