Lawyers ask to tape execution

October 14, 1993|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Staff Writer

Lawyers for Donald Thomas, an inmate on Maryland's death row, will argue in Baltimore County Circuit Court next week that they be allowed to videotape John Frederick Thanos' execution and monitor his brain waves.

The hearing is scheduled for Oct. 22.

Sewall B. Smith, warden of the Maryland Penitentiary and the man who will carry out the execution, already has denied both requests. He also has denied a request that a doctor for Thomas' defense witness the execution, scheduled for the first week of November.

Thomas, sentenced to death a decade ago for the murders of Donald and Sarah Spurling, is contesting his death sentence on grounds that lethal gas is cruel and unusual punishment.

Although Maryland's highest court has ruled that execution by cyanide gas is not cruel and unusual, other states have moved away from using the gas chamber, said H. Mark Stichel, an attorney for Thomas.

During a hearing in August, Mr. Stichel called witnesses who testified that inmates executed by lethal gas remain conscious for up to seven minutes. A state expert disagreed, saying a person poisoned by cyanide gas would lose consciousness within seconds.

Mr. Stichel argues that in addition to allowing Thanos' execution to be videotaped, the state should allow Thanos to be hooked up to an electroencephalograph, or EEG, which monitors the brain's electrical activity. Such a test could determine how long a person remains conscious, said Mr. Stichel.

Arguments on whether Thanos was competent to dismiss his lawyers and waive further appeals are scheduled for Oct. 27, before the Court of Appeals.

Thanos was convicted of killing three teen-agers during a weeklong crime spree in 1990 and has said he wants no further appeals.

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