Coworkers of Nancy Elizabeth Finch, the 32-year-old Montgomery County librarian raped and murdered on a jogging trail last month, are banding together to crusade for tightening state bail laws that allow pre-trial release of criminal suspects.
The suspect in Finch's murder, Robert Andrew Goodman, 19, of Silver Spring, was out on bond at the time after an August charge of assault with intent to rape and a second charge, leveled two days before Finch's murder, of breaking into a Silver Spring church. Finch is now being held without bond at the Montgomery County Dentention Center.
"We are not seeking vengeance," said Marie Rosche, head of the Kensington Park Library, where Finch, a Beltsville resident, worked. "Vengeance was the last thing on Nancy's mind. It never occurred to her that there was any danger in the world. We are seeking protection, prevention. We want to keep future criminal suspects from future victims."
The librarians are examining Goodman's earlier arrests and releases to figure out how the criminal justice system failed to keep a man they say never should have been let go.
Recently, five county librarians met with Marion L. Burkhalter, the county sexual-assault services coordinator, who told them whom to call to get tape recordings of Goodman's bond hearings and whom to write to seek new bail policies.
Last week, the librarians met at Kensington Park Library with Assistant State's Attorney Martha G. Kavanaugh, who explained the process of how a suspect is released after an arrest.
Admitting that some suspects are released when they should not be, Kavanaugh encouraged the librarians to work to upgrade the job of commissioner -- the person at the police station who initially determines bail. "These are usually law students, retirees -- just plain citizens, really," she said.
The commissioner questions the suspect to determine if he can be trusted to show up for trial, Kavanaugh said. Because checking court records takes a long time, the commissioner often has to rely only on the suspect's answers.
Under the law, the suspect's likelihood to appear for trial is the only criterion used to determine whether he should be freed on bail. Kavanaugh said judges are not supposed to ask whether a suspect poses a danger to the community. That question should be asked, she said, and she encouraged the librarians to work for a change in the laws.
As Kavanaugh spoke, the librarians took notes and asked questions. They noted the judges and politicians she suggested they call.
After the meeting, librarian Martha Lawrenz called state Del. Constance Morella (R-Montgomery County) and asked for her support in their push for bail reform. Lawrenz reported that Morella was enthusiastic in her support and said she would contact Kavanaugh next week.
Explaining the drive for the legislative reform, librarian assistant Linda Ingalls said: "Nancy's death was something horrible, but we searched and searched for something good to come from it."
"We do not want to be vindictive," Rosche said. "We are not seeking capital punishment reform or else we would have immediately joined the Friends of Stephanie Roper"--a citizens group seeking stronger sentencing laws after two men convicted of Roper's murder were sentenced to life imprisonment terms that made them eligible for parole in 12 1/2 years.