Panel postpones hearing on judge's conduct in case

October 19, 1995|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Despite a vigorous protest by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert E. Cahill Sr., a groundbreaking public hearing stemming from his sentencing in a manslaughter case has been postponed until next year.

The Commission on Judicial Disabilities had scheduled a public hearing Oct. 30 -- its first under new rules adopted after reports of the sentencing caused a national uproar one year ago.

Although the judge's attorneys want "to get on with it," Christopher J. Romano, the commission's investigative counsel, said the four hours allotted weren't sufficient, so four days now are scheduled from Feb. 19 through Feb. 22.

On Oct. 17, 1994, Judge Cahill sentenced Kenneth L. Peacock, a Parkton trucker, to 18 months' work release for his plea bargain to manslaughter. Peacock had arrived home unexpectedly on a stormy night to find his wife, Sandra, in bed with another man and shot her several hours later.

In July, the commission found probable cause that Judge Cahill violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by failing to avoid the appearance of impropriety, failing to act in a manner to promote public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary and showing apparent gender bias in his use of words.

Among several comments singled out was the judge's oft-quoted musing: "I seriously wonder how many married men, married five years or four years would have the strength to walk away, but without inflicting some corporal punishment "

In a statement yesterday, the judge's attorneys, Robert E. Cahill Jr. and H. Russell Smouse, said, "We stand ready, willing and able to establish that the hysteria after the Peacock case was driven not by anything he said or did in the courtroom last October, but rather by sensationalized press reports about things he did not say."

They said Judge Cahill was notified in November that he was under investigation and begged for a chance to explain.

Mr. Romano, who will prosecute the case, said the hearing was rescheduled "so that the issues can be fully developed, and to have a continuity of the proceedings." The February dates reflect the schedules of the seven commission members and the availability of the courtroom in Annapolis, he said, declining further comment.

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