Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 9, 2013

Maryland death penalty already effectively dead, some prosecutors say

State has one of the most restrictive capital punishment laws in the country

ANNAPOLIS — A bill that would repeal the death penalty in Maryland appears to have the votes needed to clear the Senate, adding momentum to Gov. Martin O’Malley and proponents’ push for repeal.

But some prosecutors and other death penalty supporters say a repeal would only make official what is already true — capital punishment doesn’t really exist in Maryland. The state has one of the most restrictive death penalty laws in the country.

Combine that with bureaucratic opposition from the governor and judges’ reluctance to impose the ultimate penalty, and even the most violent criminals are not likely to ever be executed, some say.

“I don’t want them to ever have the opportunity to do it again,” said Sen. Kathleen Klausmeier, D-Baltimore County, a supporter of the death penalty. “But as far as I’m concerned,” she said, “the death penalty doesn’t happen here in Maryland anyway.”

State’s Attorney John McCarthy of Montgomery County said he’s reluctant to even file a death penalty notice because he sees the existing statute as a form of deception.

“If you are a prosecutor and think it’s nice to have it as an option, you don’t really have it as an option,” said McCarthy, adding that he and his predecessor, Attorney General Doug Gansler, never pursued the death penalty in Montgomery County.

“The reality is that it will never be carried out (in Maryland),” McCarthy said. “I will not talk to victims’ families about the death penalty because it’s not fair to a victim’s family. It’s not achievable.”

Currently there are five people on death row in Maryland. Another five have been executed since 1976.

Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger is a vocal supporter of the death penalty and said that despite being written into law, “the death sentence has not been imposed as it should have been over the past years.”

He referenced a 2011 case in Baltimore County involving an Essex man, Walter P. Bishop Jr., who was hired as a contract murderer by Karla Porter to kill her husband, William Porter. Bishop fatally shot Mr. Porter for a sum of $9,000.

Contract murders fall under the umbrella of aggravating factors — which also include killing a police officer or killing two or more people in the same event — needed for the death penalty. Police also obtained a video of Bishop confessing to the crime, which made him eligible for the death sentence under the statute revised in 2009.

That legislation requires DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or video evidence of the crime.

Bishop was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. The jury believed his lack of prior criminal convictions outweighed the state’s request to impose the death sentence.

Washington County State’s Attorney Charles Strong — also a longtime supporter of the death penalty — believes that prison sentences come down to judges’ discretion, but that an additional limitation of the current death penalty law is the hole in the lethal injection methods used during execution.

“The governor has refused to do the stage that is necessary to implement the drug protocol,” Strong said. “The current method for execution involves the use of three drugs in the lethal injection, however, one of the three is not available for use.”

An anesthetic used in executions — sodium thiopental, or Pentothal — is no longer available in the United States, and O’Malley has not put forth a new protocol.

“Even if you get (the death penalty), you can’t kill him,” Strong said.

Regardless of the methods used, no one has been executed in Maryland in roughly seven years, despite the state’s potential to have legally done so.

In 2006, a man killed a correctional officer in Hagerstown while attempting to escape from prison.

The Howard County Circuit Court judge in the case cited mitigating factors — the convicted murderer, Brandon T. Morris’ troubled childhood — and in 2008, spared him the death penalty, opting to instead sentence him to life without parole.


Text Only
Local News
  • Cemetery group’s efforts revive Oak Hill grounds Cemetery group’s efforts revive Oak Hill grounds

    After you drive Alexander and Furnace streets then navigate a couple of switchbacks on Cemetery Road, you’d figure there would be no more uphill.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Proposed county budget holds most agencies flat

    After taking into account an income tax shortfall, Allegany County Finance Director Jason Bennett said he’ll propose a budget that holds most outside agencies to flat funding and funds the Board of Education at what county officials say are maintenence of effort levels for 2015.

    April 17, 2014

  • RYAN WOLF Wolf named 2014-15 Garrett Teacher of the Year

    Southern Garrett High School teacher Ryan Wolf has been named the 2014-15 Garrett County Teacher of the Year.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rep. Delaney discusses congressional gridlock Rep. Delaney discusses congressional gridlock

    While giving a civics lesson at Frostburg State University on Thursday, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, congressman from Maryland’s sixth district, told students that the polarization in Congress is due primarily to redistricting and a poorly designed Congressional schedule.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fourmile Ridge wind project approved, moves forward

    The Federal Aviation Administration has approved the Fourmile Ridge wind project in eastern Garrett County and site preparation started April 7, according to Frank Maisano, a wind industry spokesman. The current notice listed on the FAA website for the project is for a small change in turbine location.

    April 17, 2014

  • Oakland back to normal after toppled tanker closes business district

    The town of Oakland returned to normal activities Thursday, one day after a tanker full of liquid propane overturned in the heart of the business district.
    Shortly after 8 p.m. Wednesday the toppled tanker was removed and its 10,000-gallon load transferred to another tanker.

    April 17, 2014

  • Students back Southern Middle School renovation

    Students from both Southern and Northern middle schools presented a list of reasons why Southern Middle needs to be renovated during the Garrett County Commission meeting Tuesday.

    April 17, 2014

  • Trial run Trial run

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 72nd anniversary of Doolittle Raid on Tokyo 72nd anniversary of Doolittle Raid on Tokyo

    Friday, April 18, has another special meaning for me besides Good Friday.
    April 18, 1942, proved to be a pivotal day for American morale, following the deadly air attack and destruction conceived and executed by Japanese Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lara Courrier seeks re-appointment to Mineral school board

    I, Lara Courrier, am seeking re-election to the Mineral County Board of Education to continue the work I’ve done the last four years. Having served as a school counselor at the Burlington Center School and the Chick Buckbee Juvenile Center for nearly six years, as well as approximately 20 years total working with children, I have insight into the needs of kids and the importance of the actions of the school board. Having three sons and several nieces and nephews in Mineral County schools, I have an added incentive to continue to work hard to ensure the efficient running of our school system. 

    April 17, 2014

Must Read
News related video