State Digest

STATE DIGEST

May 18, 2006

National group honors Grasmick

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick received a national education award yesterday for her "outstanding contributions to American education."

The James Bryant Conant Award is given by the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based nonprofit that monitors education trends and policies for state governors and legislators.

The Education Commission of the States praised Grasmick's focus on student achievement, parental involvement and early childhood education. She has been the state schools chief since 1991 and has served under three governors. She was one of the first superintendents in the country to institute an accountability system for a state's schools in the early 1990s.

ECS noted that Education Week, a national education publication, has praised the state for the past several years for its standards and accountability testing.

Grasmick will receive the award in Minneapolis on July 13.

Liz Bowie

Race for governor

Duncan urges assault rifle ban

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Douglas M. Duncan called yesterday for a statewide ban on assault rifles, as he stood with the sister of a sniper victim across from the courtroom where John Allen Muhammad is on trial for six murders caused by high velocity bullets.

"We've seen it in the sniper trial, we've seen it in Fairfax County, the destruction that these weapons can cause," said the Montgomery County Executive, surrounded by gun control advocates, including Vickie Snider, sister of sniper victim James "Sonny" Buchanan.

"I thought surely, surely after the sniper incidents, the ban would be continued," Snider said, referring to the now-expired federal ban on assault weapons.

Democratic state Sen. Robert J. Garagiola of Montgomery County said Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. "aggressively" lobbied against an assault weapon ban that Garagiola proposed last year.

"While the governor may want to play politics, parse words and make this all about a television ad, that's not going to make Maryland any safer," Duncan said.

Recent ads for Duncan's campaign criticized Ehrlich's record on gun control and have come under fire from the Ehrlich campaign, which has sent letters to television stations threatening to sue if the ads are not pulled, Duncan said.

Julie Scharper

Ocean City killings

Hearing on new trial bid OK'd

A man convicted in the killing and dismemberment of a Virginia couple in an Ocean City condominium four years ago has been granted a hearing on his request for a new trial.

Benjamin Sifrit and his wife, Erika, of Hollidaysburg, Pa., were convicted in separate trials of luring Martha Crutchley and Joshua Ford back to their condominium and shooting the pair in a bathroom in May 2002. Their dismembered bodies were found in a Delaware landfill nine days later.

He was sentenced in Montgomery County to 35 years in prison for second-degree murder, first-degree assault and being an accessory after the fact in Crutchley's murder.

Benjamin Sifrit requested the new trial, claiming his legal counsel was ineffective, failing to investigate his case and failing to file to have his sentence reconsidered, WTOP radio reported.

The hearing in Sifrit's request is set for June 29.

Associated Press

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