Baltimore killing leads to questions for O'Malley's anti-violence program
Here at The Washington Post Maryland Politics blog, we don't typically write about crime, especially crime in Baltimore.
But when news of the brutal killing of a pregnant woman makes headlines on the same day that Gov. Martin O'Malley is touting the state's lowest crime rate in 35 years, the juxtaposition raises eyebrows.
It becomes a statewide political story and gets a mention here if within 24 hours documents show the suspect in the slaying -- and a target of the governor's award-winning crime-prevention effort - should have been locked up at the time his girlfriend and unborn child were killed. Police say the suspect has confessed to the crime.
It also helps if the spokeswoman for Patricia C. Jessamy (D), the Baltimore State's Attorney, tells television reporters that it's unclear why a state parole and probation agent appeared to have failed to file paperwork for a warrant that would have allowed the suspect to be put behind bars before the killing. In other words: why did O'Malley's signature "Violence Prevention Initiative" break down?
Many questions remain about the killing, and whether state parole and Baltimore Circuit Court officials could have done more late last month to revoke existing bail and arrest the suspect after he was stopped for leaving the scene of an accident that caused an injury. The suspect, 29-year-old Andrew Jackson, had been arrested 13 times previously, including for two handgun violations.
His girfriend, Betsy Riggin, 28, was reportedly expecting to give birth in September. She was found beaten and strangled in her home Thursday.
Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Corrections, said the agent assigned to the case had worked aggressively to put Jackson in jail when he began violating terms of his parole. He was served a violation of parole warrant early last month, but was released after posting $10,000 bail. Then, after Jackson left the scene of the April 21 traffic accident, the agent convinced a judge to pull the bail and on April 28 agree to issue a new warrant for Jackson's arrest.
Because of a decade-old process, however, of using the U.S. Mail to send arrest requests and warrants back and forth between the court and the state, Binetti said two weeks elapsed between the time the agent requested the warrant and when it was signed, reformatted and returned to the agent on Wednesday, a day before the killing.
"Nothing failed ... It worked exactly the way it was supposed to," Binetti said, referring to the agent's attempts to obtain warrants and the normal, if not slow, process of using the mail to communicate with the courts.
Binetti acknowledged that the warrant last week was initially stuffed in the wrong mailbox when it reached the state the day before the killing, but said that would not have affected the timeline for when the Sheriff's office or agents might have gone looking for Jackson to serve the latest warrant.
O'Malley's Violence Prevention Initiative, which is designed in part to have a zero-tolerance policy for criminals considered most likely to commit new crimes, was selected last week as the recipient of a 2010 National Criminal Justice Association award. He has repeatedly touted the program's success during his first weeks on the campaign trail.
Aaron C. Davis
May 11, 2010; 6:39 PM ET
| Tags: Baltimore, Crime, Crime prevention, Martin O'Malley, Police
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