Of making laws and defending those charged with breaking them
There's an interesting juxtaposition taking place in a Baltimore courtroom today: Prosecutors are trying to convict Jose Hernandez of violating Maryland's anti-gang statute. Hernandez's attorney is Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons, a state lawmaker who sits on the legislative committee that weighs crime laws.
Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat and longtime defense attorney, has strongly questioned gang laws over the years, saying they potentially infringe upon a person's freedom of expression and are redundant of other laws.
"I would hope you don't embark on a crusade to put people in jail because of the color that they wear," Simmons told prosecutors at a 2007 House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Maryland's first anti-gang statute passed in 2007, but it has barely been used because prosecutors say it's just too difficult to prove all of the factors. Hernandez appears to be only the second person in the state ever charged under the statute.
This year, the General Assembly strengthened the anti-gang law, outlining clearer ways for prosecutors to use it, though it won't take effect until Oct. 1. Simmons voted for the legislation. The new law passed despite late-session pleas from legislators in urban, black areas who worried it unfairly targets minorities.