2006-02-02 / Top Stories

Albany Pols Begin Overhaul Of State’s Child Murder Law

By MARK JOHNSON Associated Press Writer

By MARK JOHNSONAssociated Press Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. — Parents or guardians who cause the death of a child under the age of 14 would face life in prison under a proposal announced Tuesday by state Senate Republicans spurred by the beating death of a Brooklyn girl.

“Nixzmary’s Law,” backed by Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, would mandate life without parole for the parent, guardian, or person in a position of trust who causes the death of a child intentionally or through abuse and torture.

The proposal is named after Nixzmary Brown, found dead in her home on January 11. Authorities said the girl was bound and held captive before her stepfather Cesar Rodriguez killed her with a blow to the head. Rodriguez and the girl’s 27-year-old mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, have been indicted on charges of second-degree murder, child endangerment and assault. The mother allegedly ignored the loud thumping noises and cries for help.

“She asked for mercy, she got none. She asked for help, she got none. Nobody answered. Now there are cries of outrage...Now the question is, are we going to answer the cries of outrage?’’ said Sen. Raymond Meier, a Utica area Republican and sponsor of the bill.

Meier, while admitting much more had to be done to address problems in the child welfare system that failed to prevent the girl’s death, said the law would be an initial step toward better protecting children. He noted that Rodriguez, if convicted, could serve as little as 15 years behind bars for the crime.

State Senator Carl Kruger, who represents several south Brooklyn communities, said last week, “I applaud the actions of Senator Bruno and Senator Meier for advancing the enabling legislation to create Nixzmary’s Law. When enacted, this important piece of legislation will inflict due punishment on those criminals who commit the most heinous act, murder, against our most vulnerable citizens — our children.

“This measure is long overdue and will serve to prevent future tragedies similar to the one that resulted in the senseless death of little Nixzmary Brown. While it is too late to save her, it is hoped that this law will save other innocent children from the same tragic end.”

The same legislation is being introduced in the Democrat-led Assembly. The Assembly has scheduled the first of several public hearings on the matter Feb. 9 in New York City.

``Penalties in the absence of meaningful substantive reform do little to help the tens of thousands of children who look to the child welfare system for care and protection,’’ Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in a statement.

A half-dozen employees at New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services have been suspended or disciplined over their responses to reports of problems at Nixzmary’s home. The city has also announced a comprehensive review of cases of abuse and neglect that were still under investigation.

Last week Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he was creating a new family services coordinator position to oversee agencies charged with helping children in need. The mayor said the guidelines for interactions between Administration for Children’s Services staff and the police department would be revised, as would the rules covering the city Education Department’s reports of neglect.

Bloomberg said the city will also spend another $16 million for staff, supervisors, and training at ACS.

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