- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he will keep his campaign promise to lift Maryland's death penalty moratorium as soon as he takes office in January.
The move would clear the way for as many as seven executions in Mr. Ehrlich's first year in office.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, ordered the moratorium in May, pending a University of Maryland study into possible racial bias in dispensing the state's death penalty. Results of the study are due in December. Their September release was postponed to avoid having them politicize the Nov. 5 elections.
Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said he would review each death-sentence case instead of halting all of them. When making the announcement Friday, he did not indicate how the study might influence his review of Maryland's 13 pending executions.
Death-penalty opponents are planning to lobby Mr. Ehrlich heavily to postpone lifting the moratorium until the legislative session ends in April.
Maryland and Illinois halted executions because of doubts about the fairness of the penalty. Mr. Glendening said he was troubled by charges that blacks who killed white victims are disproportionately sentenced to death.
Though most murder victims in the state are black, all 13 men on Maryland's death row were convicted of killing white people.
Nationwide, 82 percent of executed inmates were convicted of killing white people, though more than 50 percent of murder victims are black. About a year ago, 43 percent of the nation's death-row convicts were black. Maryland had the highest percentage of black, death-row inmates, with more than 70 percent.
Death-penalty critics also argue that capital punishment is disproportionately imposed on poor people because they receive inadequate legal representation from court-appointed lawyers.
Despite postponing releasing the results from the university study, the death penalty became a campaign issue with the capture of two suspects in the Washington area serial sniper attacks: John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17.
Mr. Ehrlich and his Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, supported the death penalty for Mr. Muhammad if convicted. Mr. Ehrlich expressed stronger support for the death penalty in general, saying he would back legislation to make 17-year-olds eligible for capital punishment in Maryland.
Six of the 10 fatal sniper shootings were in Maryland. But the suspects are expected to be tried first in Virginia, the site of three shooting deaths, because the commonwealth is considered more likely to impose the death penalty.


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