MD prosecutors slam General Assembly for lax juvenile crime laws, stress need for special session
By Gary Collins | Fox 45 Baltimore • July 12, 2023 | Original Source
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WBFF) — Putting partisan politics aside, local state's attorneys across the state of Maryland are demanding immediate action on raising juvenile crime, mass shooting frequency and illegal firearm possession.
In response to a series of questions Fox45 News sent to all Maryland state's attorneys, those that responded believe their offices are handcuffed in their ability to keep the public safe.
Nearly all want the Maryland General Assembly to convene a special session to repeal recently implemented progressive juvenile justice laws they feel are making the state less safe.
This revelation comes as Baltimore residents are becoming enraged with a lack of updates from local and state officials in the wake of the worst mass shooting in state history.
Shortly after midnight on July 2, chaos erupted during the annual 'Brooklyn Day' block party in Baltimore's Brooklyn Homes community. Recently obtained court documents suggest one shooting may have triggered the sequence of more than a dozen shooters indiscriminately opening fire during a celebration that reportedly boasted between 900 and 1,000 attendees.
According to data obtained from Statista Research Department, July's Baltimore City massacre ranks as the 15th worst mass shooting when comparing number of victims shot.
The Baltimore massacre left two young people dead and 28 others injured.
Other than charges filed Friday against a 17-year-old boy allegedly seen in a social media video carrying an assault-style gun in a backpack prior to shots being fired, no other arrests have been made.
Maryland state's attorneys did not hold back their opinions when speaking to Fox45 News on how these newer laws make the public less safe.
The Child Interrogation Protection Act has replaced traditional constitutional protections with legislative fiats that bar police from questioning young offenders, even those charged as adults," Democratic Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy told FOX45 News. "This comes during a time of increasing youth violence."
Frederick County State's Attorney J. Charles Smith, a Republican, shares the same strong dissatisfaction for the law.
The result of this law [the Child Interrogation Protection Act] passing in Maryland is that if your child is a victim most often the perpetrator is another juvenile and there is a very good chance that the crime will not be fully investigated," Frederick County State's Attorney J. Charles Smith told Fox45 News.
Newly elected Baltimore City State's Attorney Ivan Bates had strong objections to the Juvenile Justice Reform Act in an interview with Fox45's Good Day Baltimore.
...when you look at the Juvenile Justice Reform Act that happened in June of 2022, to be honest, I think it's one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever read because what it has done is it has taken the process of holding juvenile accountable away from prosecutors," Baltimore City State's Attorney Ivan Bates told Fox45's Good Day Baltimore.
All responding state's attorneys believe the Maryland General Assembly has taken away their ability to keep the public safe.
Harford County State's Attorney Alison Healey thinks state legislators have created an environment were violent children cannot be held accountable for breaking the law.
The Maryland General Assembly has made it infinitely more difficult to hold juvenile offenders accountable," Harford County State's Attorney Alison Healey said to Fox45 News. "There is very little accountability for juveniles who commit criminal acts under the new legislation."
Carroll County's State's Attorney Haven Shoemaker has experience being a veteran Annapolis lawmaker. He believes the Maryland General Assembly makes his office's work near impossible.
Juvenile criminal coddling is not the answer," Carroll County State's Attorney Haven Shoemaker told Fox45 News.
Most responding state's attorneys want to see illegal possession of a firearm reclassified as a felony.
Having seen her rural county's first recorded mass shooting that involved 15-year-old teenagers and younger on July 5, Wicomico County State's Attorney Jamie Dykes sees the value of making illegal possession of firearms a felony, but believes tougher penalties will be more of a deterrent.
"I believe subsequent offender penalties with mandatory minimums are more likely to be effective," Wicomico County State's Attorney Jamie Dykes said to Fox45 News.
As some state's attorneys call for a legislative special session to address juvenile violence, nearly all are waiting to see how Governor Wes Moore decides to address mounting concerns on the matter.
Moore spokesperson Carter Elliott told Fox45 News the state is seeking all options to address violent crime.
"The past several weeks have painfully highlighted the need for substantive reform to prevent the tragic loss of life from acts of senseless gun violence," Elliot said.
While there are no plans for a special session, the Moore-Miller Administration is committed to working with the legislature to explore all possible options to curb the gun violence epidemic that has plagued Maryland for far too long," Elliott added.
With Governor Moore rejecting widespread calls for a special session, it is now up to the Maryland General Assembly to decide to act. Some are worried lawmakers do not see the effects of newly enacted legislation on public safety.
Sadly, I am not sure the General Assembly will be able to see the effect of their actions until a little more time has passed," Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said.
This article will be updated with any additional responses from Maryland state's attorneys.