Veney's flight prompts review of prison leave

April 27, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

The policy that allowed convicted cop killer Samuel Veney to leave prison for weekend family visits is under review and some changes may be proposed, the state's chief public safety official said yesterday.

"I do have a problem with why he was given family leave on weekends; that is being looked into," said Bishop L. Robinson, public safety and correctional services secretary.

Mr. Robinson was a city police sergeant in the drug squad when Veney and his brother Earl killed Sgt. Jack Lee Cooper on Christmas morning in 1964, one of the most notorious crimes in Baltimore history. The ensuing manhunt for the two brothers caused widespread chaos in the city when police bashed in doors of homes where they were believed to be hiding.

As someone who lived through the hysteria generated by the killing, Mr. Robinson said he sympathized with those who felt shock over the convict's escape. "I don't want to see him back on the street; that was the last thing I wanted to hear," he said, adding that the review, to be coordinated by correctional officials, will look at the family leave policy and how it was applied in the Veney case. "This is an inquiry to see if our policy needs to be changed."

Veney failed to return April 18 from a visit to his son's home and spent a week on the run in New York City. He was arrested Sunday outside a Manhattan police station, where he was conducting an interview with a local television reporter.

He remained in a New York jail yesterday, waiting to be arraigned on a charge of being an escaped fugitive. Correctional officials said he agreed to waive extradition and will be brought back to Maryland in 10 days.

"He has indicated to us that he will come back voluntarily . . . and he's also realized his wrong by not returning" to his prerelease unit in Jessup, said Cpl. J. Scott McCauley, a state corrections spokesman. "He's definitely looking at no more family leave, and more than likely, no more work release."

Veney had a clean prison record and had been on work release for a decade when he was approved for family visitation rights two years ago. He was on his 18th pass when he took a bus to New York on a whim.

Veney was one of 14 convicted murderers serving life sentences who received weekend passes. The program is available to any inmate except those serving a death sentence or life without parole.

Initially sentenced to death, Veney won commutation to a life sentence in 1973.

Inmates may receive passes if they are due for a parole hearing within a year, have an excellent conduct record, and participated in a work-release program. Veney met all those criteria, but officials said it was highly unlikely he would be approved for parole.

Corporal McCauley said Veney will be returned to the Jessup prerelease unit to be formally charged with escape.

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