High court won't hear Md. death penalty case

April 28, 1992|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Maryland death row inmate Kevin Wiggins, convicted of the 1988 murder of an elderly woman at a Baltimore County apartment project where he worked as a painter, failed to get his case before the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday.

Without explanation, the court declined to hear a constitutional challenge to his death sentence, imposed by Baltimore County Circuit Judge William Hinkel in October 1989.

Wiggins had been convicted by the judge, in a trial without a jury, of killing Florence Lacs, 77, by drowning her in her bathtub at the Clark Manor Apartments in Woodlawn on Sept. 17, 1988.

Her apartment had been robbed, and Wiggins later drove her car around to go shopping, used her credit cards and pawned her ring.

Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty, but offered to drop that request if Wiggins would agree to plead guilty and get a life prison sentence. When he refused, the trial went ahead. He was convicted and sentenced to die.

In his appeals to the Maryland Court of Appeals and later to the Supreme Court, Wiggins contended that he should have been able to offer evidence about the proposed plea bargain, to show that prosecutors thought a life prison sentence would be sufficient for him, instead of death.

Judge Hinkel barred that as evidence, saying it would interfere ,, with future plea bargaining by prosecutors in death penalty cases. The judge also barred statistical evidence that Wiggins' lawyer sought to offer to show that the death sentence is rarely imposed in Maryland for crimes similar to his.

The Supreme Court gave no reason for turning down Wiggins' appeal. No date has been set for Wiggins' execution. He has other legal challenges that he can pursue, postponing execution.

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