State Legislature opts to drop review of ‘Joyce’s Law,’ cold case proposal

By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 05, 2013, at 2:23 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — State Rep. Steve Stanley, D-Medway, will appeal a Legislative Council decision rejecting one of two bills he proposed that are aimed at helping solve the 33-year-old murder of Joyce McLain, he said Tuesday.

The Legislative Council voted 6-4 against taking up during the next legislative session Stanley’s proposal that the state form a cold case squad to investigate cases such as McLain’s. It also voted 7-3 against his “Joyce’s Law” proposal, which would force state police to allow outside agency review of cold cases more than 5 years old, said Stanley.

The council voted against his proposals “just because there’s no big emergency. They think we can wait another year,” he said.

The Legislature’s next period for reviewing bills, typically called the emergency session because that’s the kind of bills it reviews, will begin Jan. 8. The council met Oct. 30 to consider whether to allow 401 bills into the fall or emergency session, said Ericka Dodge, communications director for Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, the committee’s vice chairman.

“The Legislative Council had decided that that meeting was not going to be when lawmakers would make their case for their bills, that that would happen on the appeal date,” or Nov. 21, Dodge said Tuesday.

Stanley said he believed that both bills should be heard this session but that he would appeal only the proposal to create a cold case squad because the chances of that passing are better.

“If you wait another year to review this, you are really waiting two years, because it will take that long for them to set up the squad,” Stanley said. “This way here we will cut it back a few years, for not just that case but any case.”

Joyce McLain was a 16-year-old sophomore at Schenck High School in East Millinocket when she was killed sometime during the night of Aug. 8, 1980. She was last seen jogging in her neighborhood. Her bludgeoned body was found on school grounds.

State police have declined to discuss exactly how far their efforts have reached, but they include an exhumation, interstate trips and occasional sweeps through the Katahdin region. They have a dozen suspects, they have said.

The victim’s mother, Pamela McLain, said she was disappointed at the vote but hadn’t given up on either initiative, especially Joyce’s Law. She hopes to have TNT TV show “Cold Justice” review the case.

“I am for the Joyce’s Law. I don’t think they fully understand it. I think they think this is about sending these files all across the U.S. That is not it. The files would not be removed out of state police,” McLain said.

Deputy Attorney General William Stokes has said he supports the cold-case squad proposal but opposes Joyce’s Law. He said he believes Joyce’s Law would be impractical, risk the safety of case evidence, and would violate portions of existing state law that prohibits the dissemination of open or ongoing state police investigations. Stokes decided not to share the case with Cold Justice for those reasons.

State police have said they continue to work on the McLain homicide.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/11/05/news/penobscot/state-legislature-opts-to-drop-review-of-joyces-law-cold-case-proposal/ printed on December 27, 2014