Opinions sought on death-row appeals State is seeking to speed process

February 28, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

Marylanders will get a chance to express their views at public hearings on how to speed up the appeals process for death-row inmates.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer appointed a commission last month to look into ways to expedite the costly appeals process. The commission is scheduled to issue a report on Dec. 1.

Thirteen people are on death row in the state, but Maryland has not executed anyone since June 10, 1961, when Nathaniel Lipscomb died in the gas chamber for murdering three women.

The panel will seek ideas from the public at a series of hearings on the process before issuing a report.

"Some want to speed it up beyond what we can reasonably do within the limits of the Constitution, and others want to do away with [the death penalty] completely," said Gary E. Bair, chairman of the Governor's Commission on the Death Penalty.

Mr. Bair, chief of the criminal appeals division in the Maryland Attorney General's office, said the commission will try to clear up misconceptions about the appeals process in death-penalty cases.

Public hearings will be conducted from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the following locations:

* Prince George's County Council hearing room in Upper Marlboro, April 30.

* Baltimore County Council hearing room in Towson, May 7.

* Frederick County Commissioner's office in Frederick, May 14.

* Easton Council Room in Easton, May 21.

Three hearings will be conducted in Annapolis to receive comment from public officials.

Those sessions are scheduled on March 15, for state's attorneys, the attorney general, public defenders and defense attorneys; on March 22, for court reporters, federal system parties, and academics; and on March 25, for judges.

Mr. Bair said that the commission will focus on delays in the death-penalty process that occur after the sentence and before the case arrives at the Maryland Court of Appeals. In addition, the General Assembly is considering legislation that would change the state's method of capital punishment from the gas chamber to lethal injection. The Senate already has passed such a bill.

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