January 28, 2022

Diamond introduces bill to prioritize prosecution of child murders

Bill Diamond

AUGUSTA – Senator Bill Diamond, D-Windham, has introduced a bill to prioritize the prosecution of child murders in order to help expose flaws in Maine’s child welfare system.

Diamond’s LD 1857, “An Act To Prioritize the Prosecution of Child Murder Cases,” was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.

“Last year was a brutal reminder of the problem of child abuse in Maine, with so much senseless tragedy,” said Diamond. “Not only do we have a serious problem of children being murdered, but these problems are compounded by delays in scheduling trials. Most of the facts surrounding the death of a child, especially those who were under state supervision at the time of their deaths, are confidential in nature and not revealed to the public, media and legislators until the cases go to trial. Bringing this information to light as quickly as possible, while preserving the rights of the accused to a fair and speedy trial, is essential to improving the system and protecting Maine kids.”

LD 1857 would require Maine’s Attorney General to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of murder cases where the victim is younger than 18 years old and would require the Attorney General to formally request that the courts give priority in scheduling those cases. He introduced LD 1857 after learning that, because of a backlog of cases caused by the pandemic, last June’s child death cases would take longer to go to trial than they typically would, thus delaying the revelation of critical information in these cases.

A longtime advocate for reform in Maine’s child welfare system, Diamond highlighted key pieces of information that have been brought to light only when past child murder cases have gone to trial.

For example, the trial in the death of 10-week-old Ethan Henderson, who was killed by his father in May 2012, revealed the failures of mandated reporters to report Ethan’s injuries to the authorities.

The trial also revealed that DHHS caseworkers were in Ethan’s home to conduct a welfare check on him just days before his death but failed to follow through because Ethan was sleeping. Making failures such as these known has been critical as the Maine Legislature seeks to improve Maine’s child welfare system.

LD 1857 now faces further action in committee. <

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