[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MD., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Dec 5 15:37:49 CST 2005
Court rejects latest appeal from Baker----Convicted killer scheduled to be
put to death this week
Maryland's highest court rejected this afternoon a request for an
emergency stay of execution from convicted killer Wesley Eugene Baker, who
could be put to death as soon as today.
Baker's lawyers had asked the Maryland Court of Appeals to postpone the
execution so they could appeal a lower court's decision to throw out a
civil lawsuit challenging the state's lethal injection protocol. The
attorneys had argued in the suit that the drugs used by the state in
lethal injection can cause unnecessary pain.
Baker, 47, is scheduled to be put to death this week for the 1991 killing
of Jane Tyson, a 49-year-old teacher's aide who was shot in the head and
robbed in front of her grandchildren outside a Baltimore County mall.
The precise date and time of an execution are not announced in advance, in
accordance with state law. A death warrant signed Nov. 3 by Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. scheduled Baker's execution for the 5-day period that began
today at 12:01 a.m.
Maryland uses 3 drugs during the execution procedure -- sodium pentothal
renders the inmate unconscious, pancurium bromide paralyzes his breathing
and potassium chloride stops the heart.
Baker's lawyers argued that unless the sodium pentothal is properly
administered, there is a chance the inmate could be awake when his
breathing and heart are stopped, causing him to be tortured to death.
A federal judge threw out a similar lawsuit, based on the constitutional
protection against cruel and unusual punishment, late last week.
The state appeals court's ruling leaves Baker with 3 requests for review
pending with the U.S. Supreme Court and a petition for clemency with the
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Waiting for Mr. Steele's life-and-death memo
There's no real hint of friction between them, but life is about to get
complicated for Maryland's most prominent political partners, Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.
Money may not be a problem for either man, but issues could be.
With the help of President Bush, Mr. Steele raised $500,000 last week for
his 2006 U.S. Senate campaign.
After speaking to midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, the president
helicoptered up to M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore to stimulate the
check-writing instincts of Maryland's Republican faithful.
Governor Ehrlich did not come to the fundraiser, staying behind for a
Board of Public Works meeting. No offense intended, apparently, but these
two very compatible partners, Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele, are likely to be
separated more as time goes by.
At the moment, for example, there is the impending execution of convicted
murderer Wesley Eugene Baker.
Mr. Steele, an opponent of the death penalty, finds himself in awkward if
so far muted conflict with Governor Ehrlich, who generally supports
capital punishment. Until now, differences of this sort have been a bit
abstract. Different views on the death penalty were even helpful
politically because each man covered an important point on the issue
spectrum. One was "tough on crime," the other opposed capital punishment.
Now, though, it's about life and death. Politics are one thing, governing
The conflict moved up another notch with the visible intervention of
Cardinal William H. Keeler, who visited the condemned man last week and
then urged the governor to spare him.
Mr. Steele's difficulties are at least threefold. He doesn't want to upset
Mr. Ehrlich, his friend and patron. He's a Catholic who once studied for
the priesthood. And in his Senate race, he needs support from black voters
- many of whom see the death penalty as racially biased.
The lieutenant governor has tried to sidestep the issue by pointing out
that it's the governor's responsibility. He's right, but many may expect
Mr. Steele to be a more passionate spokesman for his position.
The dilemma raises yet another question: How seriously are these 2 men
confronting issues of importance to the people of Maryland?
The question arises because Mr. Steele undertook a review of the death
penalty in Maryland and the criticisms raised by Raymond Paternoster, a
University of Maryland professor who says the penalty is applied in a way
that suggests racial and geographic bias. If you're black and you've
killed a white person, you're more likely to be sentenced to death. If you
live in Baltimore County, you're very likely to hear that sentence in a
capital case. In the adjacent city, Baltimore, you're almost never going
to hear it.
Asked for the results of his examination last week, Mr. Steele said he had
interviewed some people and spoken to some interest groups. He said he was
going to give the governor a memo in January. A memo? In January? Mr.
Baker is scheduled to die this week.
Governor Ehrlich must decide now. Was the professor's study flawed? Or are
there problems that should be addressed before someone else is executed?
This condemned man may deserve death at the hands of the state as richly
as anyone in his position ever has. He killed a grandmother in front her
But his lawyers have urged mercy because the murderer apparently had
precious little nurturing from his own grandmothers or his mother and
father. He had been neglected and abused. And these facts were not put
before the sentencing authority. Confronted by similar questions, other
states have put executions on hold. Maryland, too, had a moratorium until
Mr. Ehrlich called it off.
Now the fate of a man - and the concerns of citizens for or against the
death penalty - are in the hands of two leaders who don't agree and who
haven't completed a promised study. How can an execution go forward under
It's an important matter for the people of Maryland and a political team
whose interests have reached a fork in the road.
(source: C. Fraser Smith is senior news analyst for WYPR; Baltimore, Sun,
Supreme Court to Review Insanity Defense
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether a teen convicted of
killing an Arizona police officer had a fair chance to argue that he was
insane, renewing debate about insanity defenses.
Justices over the past decade have repeatedly declined to consider cases
involving insanity claims.
In a surprise, the court said it would take up the case of Eric Michael
Clark, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was a
17-year-old high school student when he shot Officer Jeff Moritz during a
traffic stop in Flagstaff, Ariz., on June 21, 2000.
There was evidence that Clark believed his town had been taken over by
aliens and that he was being held captive and tortured before the killing.
His lawyer, David Goldberg, told justices that the state insanity law is
unconstitutional because it restricts what evidence can be introduced at
"This court has never directly addressed this issue of national
importance," Goldberg said.
Arizona changed its laws after John Hinckley's acquittal by reason of
insanity in the March 1981 shooting of President Reagan and 3 others
outside a Washington hotel.
Arizona assistant attorney general Michael O'Toole said in a filing that
"even if the states are required to provide an insanity defense to
criminal defendants, this court's prior decisions make clear that no one
particular test is required."
In 1994, the court let stand Montana's abolition of insanity as an
affirmative defense for criminal defendants. But then three years ago
justices refused to review a Nevada Supreme Court decision that defendants
have a right to use insanity defenses.
At issue in the Arizona case is the use of evidence in contesting whether
a defendant was so mentally ill that he or she did not know the crime was
Clark was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in the officer's death.
Arguments in his case will be held next spring.
The case is Clark v. Arizona, 05-5966.
On the Net: Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
(source: Associated Press)
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