[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----MARYLAND
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Jul 28 23:45:02 CDT 2008
Panel Hears of Inequities in Death Penalty----Unabomber's Brother Is Among
Witnesses Before Md. Commission
A high-profile panel examining capital punishment in Maryland began its
work yesterday with a review of statistics suggesting racial and
jurisdictional disparities in the application of the death penalty and
dramatic testimony from the brother of the notorious Unabomber.
The panel's meeting in Annapolis was the first of several planned in
coming months to draft a recommendation to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and
lawmakers on whether executions should continue in Maryland. The issue has
been one of the most emotional and heavily debated in the state in recent
The commission's work comes at a time when Maryland has had an effective
moratorium on the death penalty since the state's highest court ruled in
December 2006 that procedures for lethal injection had not been properly
adopted. O'Malley only recently directed his administration to begin the
process of drafting new regulations, which are not expected to be issued
before the commission completes its work.
Yesterday, University of Maryland criminologist Raymond Paternoster
revisited for the panel the findings of a 2004 study that he said revealed
"tremendous variability" among Maryland counties in their pursuit of the
death penalty. Prosecutors in Baltimore County were about 13 times more
likely to pursue the death penalty as those in the city of Baltimore,
about five times more likely as those in Montgomery County and twice as
likely as prosecutors in Prince George's County, the study found.
The findings also suggested less pronounced disparities when the race of
the victim was taken into account, with prosecutors more likely to seek
the death penalty when whites were killed by blacks.
Paternoster's study grew out of a previous moratorium on capital
punishment in the state imposed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).
Since the findings were released, the state has executed two death-row
inmates, both during the tenure of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). But the
study has generated renewed interest since the election of O'Malley, who
opposes the death penalty and tapped former U.S. attorney general Benjamin
R. Civiletti to lead the panel.
In addition to several well-known opponents of capital punishment,
including an exonerated death-row inmate, members of the panel also
include law-enforcement officials and relatives of victims with more
favorable views of the death penalty.
Some of those panel members noted that the findings of Paternoster and
other experts did not reflect the fact that prosecutors in Maryland are
elected and might respond to the will of their constituents or to the
wishes of victims' families regarding capital punishment.
The most gripping testimony yesterday was offered by David Kaczynski,
brother of the Unabomber, and Bill Babbitt, whose brother also was a
convicted killer. Both men turned in their brothers to law enforcement
Kaczynski contrasted the case of his brother, Theodore J. Kaczynski, a
Harvard-educated serial killer whose life was spared in a plea deal, with
that of Babbitt's brother, Manny Babbitt, a paranoid schizophrenic Vietnam
veteran who was executed for his crime.
"The death penalty compounds the tragedy of murder by harming another set
of families," Babbitt said. "Please consider that harm when you consider
the role of the death penalty in Maryland."
(source: Washington Post)
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