Curran pushes for Md. law to confine sex offenders longer

January 20, 1998|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

The boys didn't know the man who played basketball with them had been to prison. By the time he was locked up again, Warren C. "Ice" Berry had molested a 13-year-old and raped and stabbed to death an 11-year-old he befriended in Baltimore.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. recalled the terrible time Berry was free yesterday while pushing for a new law to keep violent sex offenders confined longer.

Under the proposal before the state House of Delegates, sexual predators -- convicted rapists, stalkers and others -- could be committed to a psychiatric hospital upon release from prison.

A panel of prison officials and mental health experts would conduct a civil review to determine if an inmate is likely to repeat sex crimes.

If the panel finds a high degree of danger -- and proves it at a trial -- the inmate would be sent to a psychiatric institution.

"If this protects one child, we will have succeeded," Curran said.

Del. Sue Hecht, a Frederick County Democrat, introduced the bill, patterned after a Kansas law that was upheld in June by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Other states have adopted similar laws to detain sexual offenders at psychiatric facilities until they are deemed cured, including Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Arizona.

"I've seen how victims and families are pretty much given a life term when they are victimized," said Hecht, who has counseled victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults. "We're saying, those people who are truly sexual predators, we don't want them out in the general public."

Curran said he wished the law had been on the books in 1992, when Berry got out of prison after serving a 12-year sentence for sexually abusing two youths.

In the next two years, Berry stabbed the 11-year-old to death, and while prosecutors tried to get enough evidence together to charge him, he molested the 13-year-old, before confessing.

Pub Date: 1/20/98

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