- The Washington Times - Friday, October 28, 2005

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey says he will seek the death penalty against a Bladensburg man accused of fatally shooting a county police officer in June.

The move is a rarity in a county that has put just one man on death row in 50 years. It marks the second time that Mr. Ivey has sought the death penalty since taking office in 2002.

Robert Mark Billet, 43, a Jamaican national who was living in the 5200 block of Newton Street in Bladensburg, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Sgt. Steven F. Gaughan, 41, during a traffic stop in Laurel.

“For us, it’s just a matter of whether it’s appropriate under the law, and based on the evidence, we thought it was,” Mr. Ivey said yesterday. “Obviously, we looked at the strength of the evidence and other issues that were relevant.”

Police ballistics tests conclusively linked a gun they say was used by Mr. Billet to the rounds that hit Sgt. Gaughan, who was promoted from corporal after his death.

Other issues include that Mr. Billet is accused of shooting Sgt. Gaughan while the officer was performing police work and of committing the crime to escape arrest.

“I know it was not an easy decision, and I’m sure Mr. Ivey gave it a great deal of thought, but I believe it was the right decision,” county police Chief Melvin C. High said yesterday.

Sgt. Gaughan was the first county police officer killed in the line of duty in more than 10 years.

Mr. Ivey, who was elected in 2002 and is frequently mentioned as a pick for lieutenant governor in 2006, had sought the death penalty against James R. Logan, who was convicted in 2003 of killing two Prince George’s County sheriff’s deputies.

A jury found Logan guilty on two counts of second-degree murder and two handgun violations. They chose not to impose the death sentence, and Logan was sentenced to 100 years in prison.

The verdict was thrown out and a retrial ordered last month, when an appeals court ruled that the judge did not properly question potential jurors.

Heath Burch, who is black, was found guilty and sentenced to death in 1996 for the burglary, robbery and murder of an elderly couple in Capitol Heights.

A judge signed the death warrant but stayed the execution to allow Burch’s attorneys to mount a legal challenge claiming evidence of bias in the imposition of death sentences in Maryland. He remains on death row.

The last man executed for a crime in Prince George’s was Lott Glover, 33, who was hanged for murder in 1953.

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