- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 7, 2004

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Anne Arundel County’s top prosecutor has ended his third bid to get a death sentence for a former National Security Agency cryptologist convicted of killing two women more than 10 years ago.

The prosecutor’s decision comes after relatives of the victims pleaded for a stop to the emotionally draining court proceedings.

Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said his office had hoped to once again seek death for Darris A. Ware, whose two prior death sentences were voided.

But the families of victims Betina “Kristi” Gentry, 18, and Cynthia V. Allen, 22, convinced him that it was time to give the case a sense of finality.

Mr. Weathersbee said prosecutors will instead ask for life without parole at Ware’s sentencing hearing, which he said he hoped could be scheduled for this month.

“They’ve been through so much. I can’t look them in the eye and say, ‘Nah, you have to relive it again.’ I can’t do that,” Mr. Weathersbee told the Baltimore Sun.

Miss Gentry’s oldest brother, Keith Gentry, said the route to execution in Maryland is a torturous one for families. He described it as a repetitive process of trials, appeals and overturned sentences.

With the third sentencing looming nearly 11 years after his sister’s death, Keith Gentry, a retired state trooper, said he proposed to other family members that they advocate for a sentence that would put Ware behind bars for life.

Mr. Weathersbee’s decision comes two years after an Anne Arundel Circuit judge vacated Ware’s death sentence, saying his two attorneys were ill-prepared to argue against death before a jury in 1999.

It also comes nearly two months after the execution of Steven H. Oken, whose death was eagerly sought for 17 years by the families of the women he killed. Seven inmates are on death row awaiting execution.

Ware’s attorney, Arcangelo M. Tuminelli, called Mr. Weathersbee’s decision “somewhat out of the ordinary.” But he also noted that Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz chose a life sentence over death for an inmate last year out of concern for what the judge called “the devastating effect that this unending litigation has on the innocent families of the victims.”

Ware, who had a top-level security clearance, was first convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death in 1995 by a Howard County jury for the shooting deaths of Miss Gentry, his former fiance, and Miss Allen, her friend, in Miss Gentry’s Severn home on Dec. 30, 1993. The case was moved to Howard after Ware’s attorneys argued that their client could not get a fair trial in Anne Arundel because of pretrial publicity.

But Maryland’s highest court threw out the conviction and the death sentence two years later, citing prosecutors’ failure to reveal information about a key prosecution witness who was in jail and hoping to trim his prison term.

Prosecutors tried Ware again in 1999 — this time in Anne Arundel County — and again won a conviction and death sentence. But although both were later affirmed by the Court of Appeals, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr. voided the sentence in 2002, citing deficiencies in preparation by Ware’s attorneys.

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