- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2006

BALTIMORE — Gov.-elect Martin O’Malley yesterday said that he will wait for rulings by the Maryland Court of Appeals before making any decisions about his administration’s policy on capital punishment.

“We’ll be watching for the court’s guidance,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat who personally opposes the death penalty.

In addition to death penalty cases in the Court of Appeals, the state’s lethal injection procedure is being challenged in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Attorneys for death row inmate Vernon Evans Jr. say the current process could cause Evans horrific pain because his veins are damaged from years of intravenous drug use.

Last week, executions were put on hold in Florida and California.

Mr. O’Malley said Maryland has in place what amounts to a de facto moratorium on capital punishment because of the challenges in the Court of Appeals.

Asked what he would do if court rulings pave the way for executions to proceed, Mr. O’Malley said: “We’ll deal with that when we get to that. Right now, I think the next trigger for public discussion will come after those Court of Appeals cases.”

Mr. O’Malley yesterday reiterated his longtime opposition to the death penalty.

“I don’t personally believe that the death penalty is a deterrent to violent crime, and it would be nice if we could evolve to a point in our history where all of us accept that fact,” he said.

Mr. O’Malley said he thought it would be better to direct “resources that go into prosecuting and carrying out the death penalty instead into preventing violent crime by locking up for long periods of time, preferably life without parole, those who murder other people in our society.”

The Court of Appeals is considering four separate cases argued by Evans’ attorneys, including a claim that racial bias played a role in his death sentence.

Evans, who is black, was sentenced to die for the murders of Scott Piechowicz and his sister-in-law, Susan Kennedy, in 1983. In February, the Court of Appeals stayed his execution after agreeing to hear his case. The state’s highest court heard arguments in May.

The court has not indicated when it will rule.

In federal court in Baltimore, U.S. District Judge Benson Legg is considering a challenge by Evans’ attorneys, who argue that the state’s lethal injection process is flawed and could violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The attorneys say execution team members are not qualified to know whether Evans is adequately anesthetized before a painful and fatal drug is administered.

Judge Legg has asked the state to submit a plan in February that would assess how difficult it would be to find more highly qualified personnel, including general surgeons and anesthesiologists, who would be willing to participate in executions. National medical associations strongly discourage doctors from taking part in executions.

The state has proposed adjustments to how a death sentence is carried out, including better lighting for execution team members to better observe potential problems.

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