Victim-disclosure bill dies Senate panel still hopes for media sensitivity STATE HOUSE REPORT

February 11, 1993|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Staff Writer

A state Senate committee yesterday killed a bill that would have prohibited police in Maryland from making public the names, addresses and telephone numbers of victims of violent crime.

Before the 10-1 vote, several members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee noted that they hoped nonetheless to send a message to the news media to be more sensitive to the privacy concerns of crime victims.

"I really do hope there is some more sensitivity," said Sen. Norman R. Stone Jr., a Baltimore County Democrat who is the committee's vice chairman.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Janice Piccinini, D-Baltimore County, said censorship would assure victims their privacy. It would protect them from the intrusive news media, salesmen of security devices, lawyers seeking clients and criminals who prey on the vulnerable, she said.

The news media opposed the bill. Print and broadcast news organizations, including The Sun, the Washington Post and WBAL radio, said citizens would be denied information about crimes committed in their own neighborhoods if the measure became law.

Also, the committee voted 9-2 against a Schaefer administration BTC bill that the governor hoped would streamline the court system. The bill would have abolished the "de novo" provision that allows any District Court defendant who doesn't like the outcome of a case to automatically get a new trial in Circuit Court.

The de novo (once more) provision predates the District Court system established in 1971. Before then, trial magistrates presided in the lowest courts.

Supporters of de novo swayed the committee by arguing that many defendants would skip District Court and request Circuit Court trials if the provision were eliminated. That would clog the circuit level with far more than the 4,500 de novo cases it now gets each year.

Committee Chairman Walter M. Baker, a conservative Cecil County Democrat, summed up his opposition to the bill: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

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