- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday stopped all state executions including one corrections officials were scheduled to carry out next week until a study of whether the death penalty has been applied fairly is completed and analyzed.
Mr. Glendening said the high number of black inmates on death row and the fact that most of the victims in state death-penalty cases were white raised questions about racial bias. He also cited concerns about geographic bias, particularly in Baltimore County. Wesley Eugene Baker, whose execution was delayed by the moratorium, was convicted in Baltimore County.
"When nine of 13 people on death row come from one jurisdiction and that jurisdiction doesn't have a high homicide rate, that does raise some questions," Mr. Glendening said.
The University of Maryland is conducting the state-commissioned study on whether death sentences are unfairly meted out to minorities and the poor. A report on the study is to be issued this fall.
Mr. Glendening, a Democrat and death-penalty supporter, said lawmakers "need to talk about having some kind of statewide standard."
Maryland is the second state behind Illinois to impose a moratorium on executions. The state has executed two men since Mr. Glendening became governor in 1995. He granted clemency in only one of three cases.
Until yesterday, the governor repeatedly said he saw no need for a moratorium because he reviews each case closely.
But in his announcement, he said "there is a logical inconsistency to say we are reviewing the fairness of the process" while going ahead with executions.
Death-penalty opponents and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend a death- penalty proponent and the front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination have been lobbying Mr. Glendening to impose a moratorium. But Mr. Glendening, who leaves office in January, said Mrs. Townsend's request did not affect his decision.
Mr. Glendening's successor will have to decide whether to continue the moratorium; the governor said he hopes and expects it will continue for at least a year, which will give state lawmakers time to consider the study's findings.
Mrs. Townsend said Mr. Glendening's decision provides an "opportunity" to be sure that use of the death penalty is "as fair and just as possible," her campaign spokeswoman Kate Phillips said.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. disagreed with the governor's decision to stop all executions and delay Baker's death by lethal injection. He said he finds "the timing particularly hurtful to the victims."
"If I were in his shoes, I'd be looking hard at issues of guilt or innocence," Mr. Ehrlich said. "I'm not insensitive to race issues, [but] I haven't seen any evidence that race plays a part in this case."
The moratorium does not commute the sentences of Baker or any of four other death-row inmates whose appeals could be exhausted before Mr. Glendening's term ends.
"My decision is in no way based on the specifics of [Bakers] case or others," Mr. Glendening said. "I do know that the crimes for which they were convicted and sentenced were vicious and that they are precisely the type of terrible murders that call for the ultimate penalty."
Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney Ann Brobst, who prosecuted Baker, defended the county's record, noting that five of the nine death-row inmates convicted for crimes in her jurisdiction were tried elsewhere.
Ms. Brobst also said statistics are skewed because Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra O'Connor seeks the death penalty in nearly all eligible cases, whereas her counterparts in the state's other largest jurisdictions Baltimore city and Prince George's and Montgomery counties seldom do.
Baker was convicted of shooting and killing Jane Tyson and stealing her purse, as she and two of her grandchildren were getting into her Buick, on June 6, 1991, at a mall near her Catonsville home.
Scott Faust testified that he saw a blue Chevrolet Blazer parked alongside the Buick, then saw two men jump into the Blazer and speed away.
He told the court he saw Mrs. Tyson lying on the ground bleeding and saw a woman run to help a little girl who was screaming, "Mom Mom's shot."
Mr. Faust said he pursued the Blazer, recorded the license plate number and relayed it to police.
Two Baltimore County officers pursued the Blazer. When the Blazer was blocked, Baker jumped from the passenger seat and fled. Officers arrested the driver, Gregory Lawrence, who described Baker.
Blood was on Baker's leg, pants, sock and shoe when police caught him. Police said they saw no blood on Lawrence.
According to court testimony, the blood on Baker did not match his own or Lawrence's, but proteins in the blood matched those found in 1 percent of the population, including Mrs. Tyson.
Her ATM card was found on the Blazer's passenger side and the gun used to shoot her was found between the seats. Her purse and wallet were found on the path along which Baker fled and his fingerprints were found on the passenger side of the Blazer and the driver's side of Mrs. Tyson's Buick.
The human rights group Amnesty International yesterday noted that the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said "the evidence that Baker shot Tyson was not overwhelming."
Adam Sulewski, who was 6 years old when he saw his grandmother shot, said yesterday he tried not to dwell on her death.
"I just try to keep it off my mind," he said.
Franklin W. Draper, who is part of the Baltimore-based team of public defenders who have represented Baker, said they are "gratified" by the support they've gotten and Mr. Glendening's "courageous" decision.
"We realize what the governor's action is and isn't," Mr. Draper said. "Clemency is still pending. We're now looking at the bigger issue of whether the death penalty is fairly imposed."

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