- The Washington Times - Monday, November 4, 2002

Lawmakers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties are hesitant to remove the state's moratorium on executions in the wake of the sniper killings, but many residents say, "Lift the ban now."
"This is a case that certainly needs to be evaluated," said Isiah Leggett, a Democratic member of the Montgomery County Council.
The ban should not be lifted now, "not in the midst of the kind of mourning we are going through," Mr. Leggett said.
"We just need some time for a study into the use of the death penalty," said Audrey E. Scott, a Republican member of the Prince George's County Council and candidate for county executive.
But many residents said the death penalty should be reinstated following the 13 sniper shootings and 10 deaths, including six in Montgomery County, that began Oct. 2 and concluded with the arrest last week of John Allen Muhammad, 41, and John Lee Malvo, 17.
"Abandon the death penalty? I don't think that's right. Certain people deserve it," said Jerome Young, 20, a Beltsville college student, adding that should the teenage suspect be convicted, he should not be executed because of his age.
Kevin Slaughter, 35, a Beltsville paving specialist, said the local and state government officials need to "rethink what they've said" about the death penalty.
"There's no fear in people who do crimes like that," Mr. Slaughter said of the sniper shootings. "If you have the death penalty, people will think differently. The times are not getting any better."
Leslie Olson, 16, said the sniper case has changed her opinion on the death penalty.
"Before I was totally against it, but now that I've experienced the terror that he put us through, I'm more in favor of it," said Leslie, a high school student at Richard Montgomery in Rockville.
"A lot of my friends were against it before, but now they feel like I do," she said. "When things like this happen, they need to do something about it. They can't just lock them up forever."
In May, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, imposed the moratorium until a study of its fairness is completed. The results of the study are expected to be made public by the end of the year.
It will be up to the General Assembly and the state's newly elected governor next year to decide if any changes are required in death penalty cases.
Both gubernatorial candidates Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Republican Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. have expressed support for the death penalty.
Eight of the nine Prince George's council members voted for the moratorium in February 2000. Three months later, Montgomery County's nine council members voted unanimously for it.
Across the nation, critics have claimed that many death penalty laws are discriminatory. Nationwide, 82 percent of those executed had killed white persons even though more than half all murder victims were black.
About a year ago, 43 percent of death-row convicts were black. Maryland topped the nation, with more than 70 percent of its death-row inmates being black.
Mr. Muhammad and Mr. Malvo are black. The sniper victims in Montgomery and Prince George's County, the District and Virginia were of different races and ethnicities.
Death-penalty critics also have claimed that laws discriminate against the poor because 90 percent cannot afford to hire lawyers and often are assigned to ineffective counsel.
The accused snipers are believed to be homeless and to have been living inside the 1990 Chevrolet Caprice in which they were arrested.
Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan considers the moratorium and death penalty as two separate issues, said spokesman David Weaver.
Prince George's County State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson, the Democratic nominee for county executive, said the moratorium should apply for current and future death-row inmates, such as the sniper suspects, if convicted.
"I don't think you can say the moratorium is only for those [currently] on death row," Mr. Johnson said.

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