The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee today approved several bills that would tighten criminal sentencing procedures. The Senate action followed the lead of the House Judiciary Committee in dealing with the so-called "Roper" legislation.
The bills were introduced at the behest of a citizens committee organized last year to protest the life sentences given to two men convicted of the murder of Stephanie Ann Roper, a 22-year-old college senior from Prince George's County. The killers of Roper could be eligible for parole in less than 12 years.
One of the bills approved today would increase the minimum time that must be served under life sentences before parole eligibility from 15 years to 25 years, which with time off for good behavior would increase the minimum imprisonment to about 19 years. The House version would apply only to death penalty cases, the Senate bill to all life terms.
A second bill would elminate voluntary intoxication as a mitigating circumstance in a murder.
The House committee said it did not intend to remove intoxication as a possible mitigating circumstance, only as a mandatory one. The Senate bill contains no such language, which some committee members said could cause constitutional problems.
A third bill provides that the judge and jury in a murder case will see a victim-impact statement before sentencing, and permits a judge to allow members of the victim's family to testify at the sentencing.
The Senate committee also approved a proposal, killed in the House, that would allow a jury weighing a death penalty to consider as a aggravating circumstances a previous murder conviction by the defendant.