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News Scan


Florida Child Welfare Agency to Make Changes After Girl's Death

Proposed Massachusetts Bill Could Eliminate Parole for Repeat Violent Offenders 

Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Correctional Officer's Killing  

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Two Death Warrants

Minnesota Bill Would Resurrect Open-Ended Sentencing for Sexual Predators

Florida Child Welfare Agency to Make Changes After Girl's Death:  Kelli Kennedy of the Associated Press reports that the death of Nubia Docter has shown many weaknesses in Florida's child welfare agency.  The head of the agency discussed making changes to the abuse hot line and other reforms after Docter's body was found covered in chemicals in her adoptive father's truck on February 14th.  Victor Docter, her brother, was also found in the truck but survived.  Days before Nubia's death, the abuse hot line received a call about twins being bound by their hands and feet and being locked in a bathroom.  The police were never called and it took 24 hours for a child protective investigator to follow up on the call and search for the twins.  Supervisors from the child welfare agency will monitor calls on the abuse hot line and work with the Miami-Dade Police to ensure a joint response to emergency cases.  Secretary David Wilkins of Florida's Department of Children and Families states, "It was a total systematic failure by the entire child welfare system."  The adoptive parents, Jorge and Carmen Barahona, have been charged with the girl's murder.

Proposed MA Bill Could Eliminate Parole for Repeat Violent Offenders:  Colleen Quinn of the Boston Herald reports on a Massachusetts bill called "Melissa's Law," which if passed would eliminate parole for third-time violent felons.  The bill emerged in response to the death of Woburn Police Officer John Maguire in December, allegedly by repeat convicted felon and recent parolee Dominic Cinelli.  In Massachusetts convicted felons are eligible for parole after serving half of their sentence.  If Melissa's Law is passed it could affect thousands of prisoners currently serving third-time felony convictions.  Senator Bruce Tarr states that this bill is "common sense,"......"the clock continues to tick, and every moment it continues to tick until we enact reform means that public safety is less strong than it should be." 

Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Correctional Officer's Killing:  NWCN in Washington reports Prosecutor Mark Roe will seek the death penalty against inmate Byron Scherf, 52, who is accused of killing Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl on January 29th.  Scherf is already serving a life prison sentence and is a three-strikes offender.  His criminal history involves a 1978 assault, a 1981 rape, and a 1997 kidnapping and rape conviction.   Earlier posts on this case are here, here, and here.

Pennsylvania Governor Signs Two Death Warrants: Sam Wood of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Pennsylvania Governor Corbett yesterday signed death warrants for the May executions of James Dennis and Richard Laird. Dennis was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a 17-year-old girl walking home from school. Laird is also convicted of first-degree murder for the stabbing death of a young man whom Laird offered to drive home from a tavern. These are the third and fourth death warrants signed by Corbett. The last execution in Pennsylvania was in 1999.  

Minnesota Bill Would Resurrect Open-Ended Sentencing for Sexual Predators: The Associated Press reports that a proposal to give the most dangerous sexual predators open-ended prison sentences cleared a Minnesota House panel and now heads to the House Judiciary Committee. The bill from Rep. Tony Cornish represents lawmaker's search for new ways to deal with the costs of confining sexual predators. Cornish said the bill would keep sexual predators separate from less risky offenders and hold them in prison indefinitely instead of sending them to a secure treatment program, which costs three times as much. If a jury found that a predator lacked the ability to control their impulses and were a danger to others, open-ended sentencing  would allow that person to serve twice the recommended sentence for their crime  and could only be released if the corrections commissioner deemed them no longer a threat to the public. 

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