House reduces death penalty appeals


March 22, 1995|By Sun staff writer John A. Morris from staff reports.

The House of Delegates voted yesterday to speed up death penalty appeals.

House Bill 403, sought by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, would reduce the number of post-conviction appeals available to a death row inmate from two to one, among other changes.

Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr., a Prince George's Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the measure could reduce the appeals process by as much as three years. The average appeal in Maryland now takes about 11 years, he said.

Opponents argued that under these rules Kirk N. Bloodsworth, who sat on death row for 9 years, would have been executed before new evidence proved his innocence.

The House approved the bill 103-34. Delegates must now work out the differences between their bill and a tougher measure passed by the Senate last week.

House limits defense for drunken driving

The House of Delegates overwhelmingly passed a bill yesterday that would make a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent absolute proof of drunken driving.

The measure, which passed 122-9, would severely limit the type of evidence defendants could present if they register 0.10 percent on a Breathalyzer test. Under the bill, attorneys no longer could use their clients' successful performance on field sobriety tests to prove that they were not intoxicated. Defendants could argue only that the Breathalyzer tests were faulty or administered improperly.

Critics say the bill amounts to trial by machine.

Del. John S. Arnick, a Baltimore County Democrat, argued that residents should have more recourse against a test that could find people drunk after they had consumed only two beers.

But Del. Donald E. Murphy disputed that claim, saying that he had conducted a test of his own Monday night. He said he consumed four beers in an hour, took a Breathalyzer test administered by state police and only registered 0.06 percent, well below the legal limit. "I'm glad I wasn't behind the wheel," said Mr. Murphy, a Baltimore County Republican.

House Bill 1024 now moves to the Senate, where a similar bill is pending in committee.

House OKs bill to deal with deadbeat parents

Parents who fail to pay court-ordered child support would lose their driver's licenses under a bill approved by the House yesterday.

Proponents said House Bill 248, which passed 119-11, would force deadbeat parents to pay more than $327 million owed to children who are currently on welfare.

Del. Gerald J. Curran, a Baltimore Democrat, said 17 states already have similar programs and have reported significant welfare savings as a result.

The bill would allow the Motor Vehicle Administration to issue restricted licenses that allow deadbeat parents to drive to work, seek employment or receive job training.

The bill, sponsored by Del. Mark K. Shriver, a Montgomery County Democrat, now goes to the Senate.

House approves English-language bill

After a brief but emotional debate, the House narrowly approved a bill yesterday making English the official language of state government in Maryland.

The delegates voted 75-69 in favor of House Bill 657, four votes more than the minimum needed for passage. The measure would require that government meetings be conducted, and documents printed, in English.

An official language bill passed the General Assembly last year, but then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer vetoed the measure. Gov. Parris N. Glendening hinted yesterday that he might veto the measure, which he called "punitive" to non-English speaking immigrants, if it passes this year.

The Senate also is considering an English-language bill.

House committee kills caning measure

Maryland lawmakers have decided not to cane teen-agers caught vandalizing or stealing property.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 19-1 Saturday against a measure that would have allowed a judge to sentence a minor age 14 or older to up to 10 strokes with a rattan cane.

Del. Clarence Davis, a Democrat, said he proposed House Bill 1077 in response to the growing frustration in his East Baltimore neighborhood with juvenile delinquency.

Although caning has been a popular issue on talk radio programs, the proposal never developed any support in the legislature.

Panel kills proposal on jury exemptions

A proposal to exempt breast-feeding mothers and day care providers from jury duty in Maryland's Circuit Courts died last week.

The House Judiciary Committee defeated the measure, House Bill 78, in a 12-8 vote.

The bill was prompted by complaints that unyielding jury coordinators in Prince George's County have required mothers to pump their breast milk and leave their children with neighbors in order to appear for a two-week stint.

Opponents argued that the problem appeared to be limited to Prince George's and that the bill would needlessly exempt a broad category of people from jury duty.

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