Crime Bill Responds To Good Samaritan's Death

This story was written by Daniel Amzallag, Columbia Daily Spectator
When three men struck Maurice Parks to the ground and attempted to rob him as he walked home on Jan. 10, he pulled out a knife to fight his assailants, leading to the hospitalization of all four men-and the death of possible "Good Samaritan" Flonarza Byas.

Police found Byas dead upon arrival at the scene near St. Nicholas Park shortly before midnight. While Byas is assumed to be innocent, either as a bystander or as a good samaritan-someone who attempts to help the victim of an ongoing crime-it is unclear whether he was killed by Parks or by one of Parks' three assailants. The three perpetrators have been charged with robbery in the first degree, police said, but cannot be charged with Byas' murder due to this ambiguity.

Now, a month later, New York State Senator Eric Adams(D-Brooklyn) has proposed legislation that he calls the "Flonarza Byas Good Samaritan Law." The bill would allow perpetrators of violent felonies to be charged with first-degree manslaughter if "a non-participant other than the victim of such crime is either ... killed by the victim as a direct result of the defendant's actions; or killed by a non-participant as a direct result of the defendant's actions."

The measure stems from a perception of injustice among some legal observers.

"When I attempted to find out if the person's involvement in the Maurice Parks incident would be charged with the death of Mr. Byas, basically the DA's [district attorney] couldn't charge them because technically the penal law doesn't allow them to do so," said Adams, who is the ranking democrat on the Senate Crime Victims, Crime, and Correction committee.

Under Adams' legislation, the perpetrators of the January robbery would be held responsible for Byas' death, regardless of whether he was killed by victim or assailant.

"All violence that stems from that violent act should be held accountable to that person," Adams said. "No one will be prosecuted for the death of Mr. Byas. It's difficult for a family to seek closure when no one is brought to justice."

The bill, introduced Friday, has been referred to the Legislature's Codes committee for review.
© 2008 Columbia Daily Spectator via U-WIRE