Maryland Judge Declares Open-Season on Women

by Beth Corbin

Speaking at a protest in front of the Towson Courthouse, NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy is joined by Baltimore NOW President Paula Keefer, right, and members of the Baltimore Clothsline Project.  Photo by Beth Corbin.

In a decision that sent shock waves from coast-to-coast, Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert Cahill sentenced Kenneth Peacock, of Towson, Md., to 18 months in jail -- with a recommendation of work release -- for the shooting death of his wife Sandra Peacock.

 Speaking at a protest in front of the Towson Courthouse, NOW Executive Vice President Kim Gandy said, "Judge Robert Cahill has just opened hunting season on women retroactively -- and he issued the first license to Kenneth Peacock."

 Baltimore NOW President Paula Keefer said, "A marriage license is not a license to kill. Infidelity is not a corporal or a capital offense. If it were, there would be far fewer people alive today." The protest, called by Baltimore NOW, National NOW and co-sponsored by the Women's Action Coalition and Baltimore's House of Ruth, included a display of the Baltimore Clothesline Project.

 Kenneth Peacock arrived home on Feb. 9 and found his wife Sandra in bed with another man. Police say Peacock drove the man out at gunpoint, then spent several hours drinking and arguing with his wife before shooting her in the head with his hunting rifle. The fatal wound was actually the second shot fired at Sandra Peacock that night. Kenneth Peacock had to stop and reload his single-shot rifle when the first shot hit the wall above her head.

 After his sentence was reduced from first degree murder to voluntary manslaughter, Peacock pleaded guilty in August. Assistant State's Attorney Michael DeHaven had requested a three to eight-year sentence.

 During the sentencing hearing, Judge Cahill said he couldn't imagine a situation that would provoke "an uncontrollable rage greater than this . . . for someone who is happily married to be betrayed in your personal life, when you're out working to support the spouse.

 "I seriously wonder how many men married five, four years would have the strength to walk away without inflicting some corporal punishment," Cahill said. "I am forced to impose a sentence . . . only because I think I must do it to make the system honest."

 Cahill referred to Peacock as a "non-criminal," saying the incident is similar to decisions he must make in drunk- driving cases. He also said that he didn't think this case would generate much interest since, in his opinion, domestic violence victims did not have an organization similar to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers advocating on their behalf.

 "Too often men get away with murder -- literally," said NOW President Patricia Ireland. "We have news for Judge Cahill and any other judge, police officer or politician who thinks that's acceptable. They're going to be hearing from us."

 Ireland said the decision gives new importance to organizing efforts for NOW's April 7-9 actions on violence against women. NOW plans a massive "We Won't Go Back" Rally, a Young Feminist Summit on Violence and the first national display of the Clothesline project.

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