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House Judiciary to debate death penalty, sexual assault, police surveillance

The Maryland State House. (File)

The Maryland State House. (File)

Bills to reinstate the death penalty, allow evidence of past sexual assault and form a commission to oversee police surveillance technology are all slated for a hearing in the Maryland General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear 23 bills at 1 p.m.

Death penalty

House Bill 881, sponsored by Del. Michael E. Malone, R-Anne Arundel, would reinstate the death penalty — which was repealed in 2013 — for a person convicted of first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, correctional officer or first responder. The bill is co-sponsored by multiple Republican delegates.

The fiscal and policy note for the bill estimates a “significant increase in general fund expenditures” for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services because the state’s death chamber was decommissioned and there are no protocols in place anymore.

House Bill 1152, sponsored by Del. Barrie S. Ciliberti, R-Carroll and Frederick, proposes a task force to examine the resinstatement of the death penalty with a report date of Dec. 1, 2018.

Sexual assault

The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act of 2017 is also before the committee. House Bill 369 is part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s “justice for victims” legislative agenda and would permit a court to admit evidence of sexually assaultive behavior of a defendant in a prosecutor for certain sexual offenses. The cross-filed bill in the Senate had a committee hearing Feb. 8.

The committee will also hear the House version of a bill to clarify that resistance is not needed to prove rape occurred. House Bill 429 was cross-filed with Senate Bill 217. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee debated the bill Feb. 9 and received a report of favorable with amendment.

Surveillance and body cameras

Several bills relating to law enforcement technology were introduced this session by Del. Charles E. Sydnor III, D-Baltimore County.

In House Bill 1065, Sydnor proposes forming a State Commission on Surveillance Technology and Civil Rights to which law enforcement agencies would be required to report purchase and use of specified technology. The Baltimore Police Department faced backlash last year over an aerial surveillance program which was not made public.

House Bill 917 creates a procedure for police use of cell-site simulator technology, colloquially known as “StingRay” though that particular iteration of the technology is no longer in use. The Court of Special Appeals issued a lengthy opinion last year finding a warrant is required to deploy the technology, which mimics cell towers to locate a particular phone.

House Bill 767 would amend the state’s Public Information Act to include provisions relating to police body cameras, which are becoming more common in many jurisdictions. The bill instructs a custodian of records to deny inspection of video that depicts a victim of sexual assault or domestic abuse or that does not result in an arrest, detention, search, use of force or complaint of officer misconduct.

A state commission in 2015 recommended the General Assembly amend the law to protect victims of violent crime or abuse and a bill was introduced in the 2016 session. The bill passed the House but did not get out of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

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