- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Two Republican lawmakers said yesterday that they want to save the state’s death penalty from an imminent repeal this session.

Delegates Pat McDonough and Richard K. Impallaria, Republicans representing Baltimore and Harford counties, are asking for a referendum vote on the death penalty if opponents succeed in their repeal effort.

“We are giving incarcerated murderers a license to kill” if we repeal the death penalty, Mr. McDonough said.

Mr. McDonough and Mr. Impallaria said they would collect enough signatures to put the referendum on the 2008 ballot.

The drive comes one week after Sen. Lisa A. Gladden and Delegate Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, Baltimore Democrats, announced a proposal to repeal the penalty.

Mr. Rosenberg said he welcomes a referendum should his proposal pass.

“We think a majority of the people in this state think that a life sentence without parole is an appropriate sentence,” he said. “We’re going to have that debate regardless.”

In a 2005 Mason-Dixon poll, Marylanders supported life without parole as an alternative to capital punishment by a 42-point margin, 63 percent to 21 percent. However, in the same poll, Marylanders supported the death penalty by a 21-point margin, 56 percent to 35 percent. The poll, of 625 state residents, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said last week he would support the repeal if it reaches his desk.

Mr. Rosenberg did not say whether he had the votes to move the proposal through the House. The chamber’s leadership has declined to discuss the issue.

“Everybody gets one vote,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat. “Everybody has their own beliefs.”

The state Court of Appeals stayed executions in Maryland in December until the state develops a proper way to administer lethal injections.

The ban is similar to the one former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, signed in 2002. He stayed executions pending the findings of a University of Maryland study on the relationship between race and capital punishment.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican who lost to Mr. O’Malley in November, reinstated the death penalty in 2003.

Two convicts were executed during Mr. Ehrlich’s term.

Mr. McDonough and Mr. Impallaria said they are trying to protect law enforcement and correctional officers and prison inmates from convicted murderers sentenced to life without parole, who would have a “license to kill” if they no longer had to worry about the death penalty.

The lawmakers said they also are writing to President Bush and the state’s congressional delegation, requesting the federal government impose the death penalty on anybody convicted of killing a law enforcement official in a state without capital punishment.

“Life without parole should not be an option with people who are so dangerous,” Mr. McDonough said.

There are six inmates on Maryland’s death row.

• Vernon Evans Jr. was sentenced May 15, 1984, in Baltimore County. He and Anthony Grandison were convicted in the shooting deaths of David S. Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy at a Pikesville motel.

• Grandison was sentenced June 6, 1984, in Baltimore County.

• John Booth-El was sentenced Oct. 18, 1984, in Baltimore. He fatally stabbed an elderly couple, Irvin and Rose Bronstein, in their home.

• Heath W. Burch was sentenced March 29, 1996, in Prince George’s County. He killed a neighbor, Robert F. Davis, and his wife, Cleo, during a botched late-night robbery.

• Jody L. Miles was sentenced March 19, 1998, in Queen Anne’s County. While collecting a debt for a loan shark, Miles fatally shot Edward J. Atkinson in the back of the head in the woods in Mardela Springs.

• Lawrence Borchardt was sentenced May 23, 2000, in Anne Arundel County, where the case was moved from Baltimore County. Five years later, Borchardt was granted a new sentencing hearing. Arguments to appeal this ruling are scheduled for next month. During a home-invasion robbery, he killed an elderly couple, Joseph and Bernice Ohler, leaving the crime scene with $11.

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