- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Maryland officials are prepared to execute four inmates as early as a month after Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. takes office in January and fulfills a campaign promise to lift a moratorium on the death penalty.
Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, announced Friday that he planned to lift the moratorium. The move would result in twice as many executions in one year as the total number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1978.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening had imposed the moratorium and commissioned a study into accusations of racial bias in applying the death penalty. The results of the University of Maryland College Park study are expected Dec. 16.
Instead of a moratorium, Mr. Ehrlich said, he would review each death-row case. He did not indicate how the study might influence his review.
After condemned prisoner Francis Zito's death Sunday in a Maryland hospital, 12 men are awaiting execution at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore.
Eight of them are black and four are white. Nine of the men were sentenced in Baltimore County while the remaining men were sentenced either in Baltimore city or in Prince George's or Wicomico counties.
Four of the 12 have exhausted their legal appeals, says the state Attorney General's Office. All that remains for prosecutors is to seek execution warrants if and when the moratorium is lifted.
Leonard Sipes, spokesman for the state's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said the state has four to eight weeks to execute an inmate after the warrant is filed.
"We are operating under the assumption that the moratorium will be lifted and that executions will take place," Mr. Sipes said yesterday.
Officials in the State's Attorneys' Offices in Baltimore County and Baltimore city, which has sentenced three of the four inmates whose appeals have been exhausted, said they will seek warrants for execution if the moratorium is lifted. The State's Attorney's Office in Prince George's County, which sentenced the fourth inmate, did not return a phone call.
The inmates whose appeals have been exhausted are:
Heath William Burch, who was sentenced to death in Prince George's County in 1996 for the 1995 murders of Robert Davis, 72, and his wife, Cleo, 78. Burch broke into the couple's home and stabbed Mr. Davis more than 30 times. He attacked Mrs. Davis as she tried to call police. Burch left in the couple's pickup truck with four guns and $105 he took from the house.
Wesley Eugene Baker, who was sentenced to death in Baltimore County in 1992. He shot Jane Tyson in the head in the parking lot of Westview Mall outside Baltimore in 1991. Mrs. Tyson was climbing into the driver's seat of her car, after buying shoes for her young grandchildren, when Baker attacked her, shot her and ran off with her purse. Baker was within a week of execution when Mr. Glendening imposed the moratorium in May.
John Marvin Booth, who was sentenced to death in Baltimore city in 1984 for the 1983 murders of Rose and Irvin Bronstein. Booth robbed the couple and stabbed them to death in their Baltimore home.
Steven Howard Oken, who was sentenced to death in Baltimore County in 1987 for the murder of Dawn Marie Garvin, a 20-year-old newlywed. Oken told the victim he needed to use her phone, then sexually assaulted her in her home and shot her twice in the head.
Two other death-row inmates Anthony Grandison and Vernon Evans are also nearly out of legal options and could be put to death next year.
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty called the decision to end the moratorium premature and ironic considering that the Supreme Court agreed yesterday to reconsider a case involving a Maryland death-row inmate.
The court will review the case of Kevin Wiggins, who claimed he was sentenced to death unfairly because of incompetent legal representation. He was convicted of drowning an elderly woman in her bathtub. The court could use the case to give death-row inmates more room to argue that their attorneys were inadequate.
David Elliot, a spokesman for the coalition, said Mr. Ehrlich also should wait to review the results of Mr. Glendening's study.
"Eighty percent of homicides in Maryland involve the deaths of Latinos and blacks, yet every person on death row is convicted of killing a white person," he said.
Mr. Glendening's position is that the moratorium is now in Mr. Ehrlich's hands.
"Mr. Ehrlich will be governor in January, and this is a decision that should be left up to he and the legislature to work out," said Glendening spokesman Charles Porcari.


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