- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 11, 2003

ANNAPOLIS Betty Romano says she should have spent yesterday celebrating the 36th birthday of her daughter, Dawn Marie Garvin.
Instead, she stood in a chilly wind outside the State House, asking legislators to put an end to the state's death penalty moratorium and allow the execution of Steven Howard Oken, the man who murdered her daughter 15 years ago.
A small group of Mrs. Garvin's family and friends grabbed lawmakers as they headed for House and Senate sessions, asking them to oppose any efforts to extend the moratorium on executions imposed in May by Gov. Parris N. Glendening.
Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says he will end the moratorium after he takes the oath of office Wednesday, but legislation was introduced Thursday to extend the moratorium until lawmakers can review a study of the fairness of the death penalty that was issued this week.
Fred Romano was just 17 when his sister was raped and then shot to death by Oken in her Baltimore County apartment. Fifteen years later, the Harford County resident has not forgiven or forgotten.
"It affects you every day," Mr. Romano said. "You lose a family member, it never ends. It never goes away."
Vicky McNutty tried to choke back tears as she recalled the death of her friend and co-worker who sat at an adjoining desk.
"He tortured her for hours and then sexually assaulted her and then shot her," Miss McNutty said. "She was beautiful and intelligent. She didn't deserve that kind of death and he should pay."
Oken was convicted of killing Mrs. Garvin and another woman in Maryland and shooting to death a motel clerk in Maine.
Delegate Carmen Amedori, Carroll County Republican, assured Mrs. Romano that she is "totally opposed to the moratorium."
Mrs. Amedori criticized the death penalty study, describing it as "really messed up."
The study found that prosecutors are much more likely to seek the death penalty if the victim is white.
Death penalty opponents want the moratorium extended until the General Assembly decides whether the law should be changed because of the report's findings that imposition of capital punishment is influenced by the race of the victim and the location where the crime occurred.
Mrs. Romano noted that her daughter and Oken are both white. "Color has nothing to do with it," she said.
Mrs. Amedori and other lawmakers who stopped to talk assured family members there is not enough time to pass a bill extending the moratorium before Mr. Ehrlich takes office in hopes that Mr. Glendening will sign it.
Mr. Romano said he is seeking justice for his sister and for the families of people killed by the other 11 men awaiting execution.
"The only thing we can do is be [the victims] voice," he said.
Six of the 12 men awaiting execution in Maryland have exhausted their constitutionally guaranteed appeals, and a seventh likely will finish his appeals by this summer. Maryland has executed only three men since 1978, but several executions could take place this year.

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