- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 11, 2000

The children of a woman stabbed to death almost 20 years ago say defenders of her killer have it all wrong.

So does the prosecutor who put Eugene S. Colvin-El on Maryland's death row.

Colvin-El is scheduled to die by injection next month, but his relatives and others have demonstrated against the death penalty in general and in favor of sparing the 55-year-old man's life.

"I saw a person who knew absolutely nothing about the case, standing up and saying [Colvin-El] didn't get a fair trial. That's wrong," said Marjorie Surell, 75, the daughter of Lena S. Buckman, who was murdered in 1980 while visiting her daughter in Pikesville, Md.

"They have every right to be against the death penalty," said Mrs. Buckman's son, William Buckman, 70, but, "They have absolutely no knowledge of the case."

Mrs. Buckman's daughter and son and Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Mickey Norman believe Colvin-El should be executed because he has a 40-year criminal record, the murder of Mrs. Buckman was grisly, and two juries 10 years apart declared he should be executed for the crime.

Mrs. Surell and Mr. Buckman yesterday also vigorously objected to assertions by those trying to persuade Gov. Parris N. Glendening to stop the execution the week of June 12. They say the demonstrators are repeating lies and distorting facts.

They also say that a $5,900 half-page ad in Tuesday's Baltimore Sun endorsed by such notables as Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., Illinois Democrat; former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; actress Susan Sarandon; activist Dick Gregory; and actor Ossie Davis is full of distortions and falsities.

"None of these people demonstrated at the time my mother died," said Mr. Buckman, a semi-retired marketing-advertising executive in Chicago. "How many would be there [protesting] if it had been their mother that had been stabbed 29 times?"

The son and daughter were most annoyed at claims that Colvin-El didn't get a fair trial, in part because he is black and Mrs. Buckman was white, and that all the jurors were white.

In fact, Mr. Buckman says, at the second trial that reaffirmed the death sentence, "There were black and white jurors on the jury. In fact, the forelady was a black lady. I was there every day and my family was there every day."

Mrs. Buckman had come to Maryland from her home in Cocoa Beach, Fla., to celebrate the Jewish high holy days.

She was alone in her daughter's home on the afternoon of Sept. 9, 1980, her 82nd birthday, when a burglar broke a pane of glass in the back door and entered. Mrs. Buckman was coming down the stairs when she was stabbed repeatedly with a kitchen knife.

Hours earlier, Mrs. Buckman and her granddaughter had used the same knife to slice a honeydew melon for their lunch.

The attacker wiped blood off his hands with a towel, took the towel upstairs and threw it on the bed while he searched for loot, taking, among other things, two watches, including an expensive gold pocket watch that was pawned six days later.

Mr. Norman said Colvin-El later admitted his signature was on the pawn card.

Police said Colvin-El's fingerprints were on the broken glass.

Already an accomplished thief in 1972, Colvin-El had used the same technique of breaking a rear-door window pane to rob another elderly woman in the Pikesville area, Mr. Norman said.

When the woman came home, he cut her with a kitchen knife and tied her up before fleeing. She got loose and called police. Colvin-El pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Mr. Norman said.

But Colvin-El was out on parole in less than seven years. Barely 18 months later, with a record that already included 16 convictions, including 11 for burglary, he broke into Mrs. Surell's home.

"He killed a woman this time to keep from going back to jail," Mr. Norman said.

Besides finding religion while in prison, the former Eugene Colvin changed his appearance, Mrs. Surell said.

"This man was a little, thin, wiry guy. He looked like a young boy at the time," compared to the chunky convict in photographs displayed by the demonstrators at Mr. Glendening's College Park home and near the State House in Annapolis.

"I can't eat honeydew melon because [my mother and daughter] had honeydew melon that day. And that was the knife used to kill her," Mrs. Surell said in her testimony at Colvin-El's trial.

In 1981, an Anne Arundel County jury found Colvin-El guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to death.

Appeals of the death penalty, however, got him a second trial because testimony at his initial sentencing included his juvenile record. At the time in Maryland, entering such facts was not allowed.

In 1991, he went before another jury. Although an entire trial with witnesses and evidence was presented to show the viciousness of the crime, the jury was there only to resentence him.

Under Maryland law at the time, the jury had only two choices death or life in prison with a chance for parole. Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. told the jury he could impose a sentence of life without parole if they believed the life sentence was too lenient.

Even with that chance to preserve Colvin-El's life, the jury returned the death-penalty sentence once again.

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