House panel kills bill on trial schedulingA bill that...


March 22, 1995

House panel kills bill on trial scheduling

A bill that would set aside the Maryland trial scheduling rule if a defendant is incarcerated out of state has been killed by the House Judiciary Committee.

Maryland's scheduling rule requires trials to be set within 180 days of an attorney's or the defendant's first appearance in court.

Supporters of Del. Nancy R. Stocksdale's bill, inspired by the 1993 James Howard VanMetre III murder case in Carroll County, had said that the rules could result in freedom for hardened criminals.

VanMetre, who is serving time in a Pennsylvania prison for a rape conviction, strangled Holly Ann Blake of Gettysburg, Pa., on their first date in September 1991. Then he burned her body and threw the ashes into the Monocacy River.

VanMetre confessed to the crime, was convicted in April 1993 and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

But the Maryland Court of Special Appeals overturned his conviction in June 1994 because the trial rule had not been observed.

In their decision, the appellate judges said prosecutors could have avoided violating the rule by simply asking the trial court for a waiver.

Mrs. Stocksdale is a Westminster Republican.

Senate OKs change in juvenile hearings

Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson's bill to remove a child's ability to quash informal Juvenile Services adjustment hearings has passed the Maryland Senate by a 47-0 vote.

Under current law, a child must give his or her consent before participating in an informal adjustment hearing.

Juvenile intake officers usually recommend such hearings when counseling or restitution seem more appropriate than formally charging disruptive children with misdemeanors or placing them in treatment programs.

"Sometimes parents come to a teacher saying their child is disruptive and the teacher recommends informal adjustment," said Senator Ferguson, a Taylorsville Republican. "Then they find out the hard way that the child has veto power.

"Under this [proposed law], that child is not going to usurp the authority from his parents any longer."

The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

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