- The Washington Times - Friday, January 3, 2003

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has refused a request to grant clemency to 10 inmates who are serving life sentences but are eligible for parole, reaffirming his pledge that "life means life" in Maryland prisons.
Delegate Salima Siler Marriott, Baltimore Democrat, asked Mr. Glendening in a Dec. 13 letter to reconsider parole cases he previously had denied for a rapist and nine murderers whom the Maryland Parole Commission recommended for parole.
The governor's chief legal counsel, Susan L. Bayly, informed Miss Marriot in a Dec. 30 letter that Mr. Glendening had thoroughly reviewed the 10 cases when he originally denied parole.
"The governor is not persuaded to change those decisions. He remains convinced that his prior decisions were appropriate based on all information available then and now," the letter states.
Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, leaves office Jan. 15. A spokeswoman for Republican Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. declined to comment on whether he would review the 10 cases.
About 2,100 inmates are serving life sentences in Maryland prisons, representing about 9.1 percent of the state's 23,000 total prison population.
The governor has final authority over the release of inmates sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, making them eligible for release in as little as 11 years with good behavior. For lesser sentences, the parole commission alone approves releases.
"It is unjust," Miss Marriott said yesterday. "These people have all been recommended for parole. If they were not lifers, they would be out."
Among the 10 inmates Miss Marriott has championed is Mary Brown, 44, who has been behind bars longer than any other woman in Maryland prisons. At the age of 15, Brown was sentenced to life in prison for fatally stabbing a 68-year-old woman in a dispute over a raincoat.
Miss Marriott said the crimes committed by the eight men and two women she wants released are irrelevant. "What they did is not as important as that they went through a [parole] process. They should not even have to go through the governor," she said.
Miss Marriott, who has introduced legislation several times to remove the governor from parole decisions for lifers, said she does not plan to reintroduce her bill in the coming General Assembly session.
She said she will wait and see how Mr. Ehrlich uses his parole authority.
"Glendening was the problem," she said. "Other governors have not abused this policy."
In eight years in office, Mr. Glendening has paroled six lifers, each of whom had severe medical problems. He denied 23 cases the parole commission recommended.
Mr. Glendening, who made his "life means life" pledge when he took office in 1995, denied 10 clemency cases his first year. After that, the number of lifers seeking parole dropped off sharply, said a parole commission official.
If the eight-member commission recommends against parole, inmates lose the opportunity to seek parole in the future and can lose prison privileges, said a Department of Corrections spokesman.
In her letter, Miss Marriott told the governor that by embracing the Democratic Party's tough-on-crime stance, he had exposed minorities to unequal treatment in the state's criminal justice system.
"Our criminal laws, while racially neutral, are enforced in a manner that is massively and pervasively biased," Miss Marriott wrote.
The Department of Corrections reports that the 23,123-person prison population is 78.1 percent black and 21.7 percent white.
Glendening spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said there is no inconsistency between the governor's parole policy and his decision to impose a death penalty moratorium for reasons of possible racial bias.
Mr. Glendening suspended executions May 9 pending results from a university study of racial bias in dispensing capital punishment.
Miss Guillory said the governor supports the death penalty, and the moratorium has not altered the status of death-row inmates.
He also believes life sentences should be served in their entirety, she said.
"When clemency cases] come before him, he is given files and files on these people. He sifts through all of them to make sure his decision is based on the facts and not any racial bias or some flaw in the system," she said.
"He has found no other reason in his eight years to grant parole to a lifer, except for medical parole."


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