Lawrence Banks, a man convicted in two 1991 murders and questioned in two recent killings, was sent back to prison yesterday, his parole revoked by a commissioner who called his 30-year criminal record "horrendous."
Banks, 53, a Baltimore native who has spent half of his life in prison, had been held since Dec. 13 on two possible parole violations. A day earlier, his girlfriend's 22-year-old daughter and 9-month-old granddaughter were fatally shot in a house in Laurel that they all shared.
At a hearing yesterday inside a Jessup prison, Parole Commissioner Perry Sfikas determined that Banks had violated the terms of his release in the 1991 murder sentences. That means Banks will stay behind bars until 2014, according to parole officials, although he can appeal to an Anne Arundel County Circuit judge.
Banks' parole was revoked because he moved without first telling his parole agent and for being a threat to others, technical violations that, according to David R. Blumberg, chairman of the state parole commission, do not typically lead to a parolee's return to prison.
But Blumberg said most parole violators don't have the violent background of Banks, whom he called "a career criminal."
Banks' infraction of being a threat to others was related to a protective order that his girlfriend's daughter, Lisa Laverne Brown, had secured against him days before she was killed.
Prince George's County police questioned Banks in the Dec. 12 deaths of Brown and her baby, Labria, then asked Banks' parole agent to find violations that could keep him behind bars as they investigated, parole spokeswoman Elizabeth Bartholomew said.
Banks, who also uses the name Malik Samartaney, has not been charged in the Laurel shootings.
Sfikas said he did not - and, by law, could not - consider the Laurel case in revoking Banks' parole. But Sfikas did say that there was "way too much smoke for there not to be a fire," referring to Banks' behavior in general.
Banks' revocation hearing illustrated how different such proceedings are from criminal court proceedings. For one, in imposing sanctions, Sfikas considered Banks' history of violence, something typically not done in criminal court.
Banks was convicted of shooting to death a friend in Pasadena and then his own son in Baltimore on the same day in 1991. Baltimore prosecutors said he killed his son because the son and a daughter claimed that Banks had abused them, the daughter sexually and both of them physically.
In 1976, Banks was sentenced to 15 years for throwing that daughter, then a 7-month-old, through a glass door during an argument with his wife, Vivian Banks. Just before Banks went to trial in that case, Vivian Banks was found dead in an East Baltimore apartment. Her body was so decomposed that the medical examiner could not determine a cause of death.
Plea deals allowed Banks to receive a sentence of 20 years in the 1991 killings. He served about half of that time before good-time credits earned him a release in October 2002.
"The state of Maryland put trust in him that he would behave appropriately," Sfikas said. "He violated that trust."
After his release, Banks' wife, Patricia Samartaney, received at least three protective orders against him, court records show. In May 2004, she accused him of threatening to kill her while choking her with a vacuum hose and trying to suffocate her with a pillow. Banks was jailed for about nine months while awaiting trial in Anne Arundel County. A jury acquitted him.
The parole commissioner said Banks' parole file showed that he had "skated around the edge of the specific rules of release for years."
A Sun reporter was turned away from yesterday's parole-revocation hearing when Banks and a public defender representing him said they planned to discuss private information such as Banks' medical and psychiatric history, Blumberg said.
That differs from most proceedings in criminal court, which are open to the public.
After the 45-minute hearing inside the Maryland Correctional Institution at Jessup, Sfikas described Banks as a smooth talker who had "all sorts of excuses" while "dancing around direct questions."
In another difference between the parole hearing and a criminal court proceeding, Sfikas made his decision based on "a preponderance of evidence," a far lower burden than the criminal court's "beyond a reasonable doubt."
Sfikas said Banks expressed "extreme displeasure" with his decision and said he would appeal. He has 30 days to do that. An Anne Arundel judge would review the matter and decide whether to uphold the commissioner's findings or send the matter back to the commission for a new hearing.
"We have a very high success rate in being upheld without comment," Blumberg said.
If Sfikas' decision stands, Blumberg noted, state law prohibits parole violators from earning any more good-time credits. That would make firm Banks' scheduled Aug. 13, 2014, release date.