Thanos stay of execution set to expire Thursday

February 27, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

If John Frederick Thanos plans to change his mind and appeal one of his death sentences, he'd better do it soon. A mandatory 240-day stay of his execution runs out Thursday.

If he doesn't file a post-conviction appeal by then, Worcester County prosecutors will ask a St. Mary's County Circuit judge to sign a death warrant calling for his execution in Maryland's gas chamber in four to eight weeks.

"We intend to move, and move full speed," said Jeffrey Cropper, an assistant state's attorney in Worcester County.

Thanos, 44, faces execution for the 1990 robbery and murder of Gregory A. Taylor, 18, a welder from Hebron. Thanos said he killed Mr. Taylor because the young man would not allow himself to be tied up.

Thanos, who also was sentenced to death for the robbery and murder of two Baltimore County teen-agers, fired his attorneys and said he does not want to appeal his convictions.

In January, St. Mary's County Judge Marvin S. Kaminetz ruled that Thanos was competent and could make his own decisions. That ruling is consistent with those made by the state's highest court.

Thanos faced execution last November for the murders of Billy Winebrenner, 16, and Melody Pistorio, 14, after a Garrett County Circuit judge found him competent.

Public defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union appealed the judge's decision.

Although the Court of Appeals agreed that Thanos was competent to waive his appeals, the court ruled that the automatic 240-day stay of execution had to expire before he could be executed.

The St. Mary's County case takes precedence over the one in Baltimore County because Thanos' first death sentence comes from that case.

Gary E. Bair, an assistant attorney general, said he expects the federal public defender in Baltimore to file a habeas corpus appeal, which places the burden on those detaining Thanos to justify the detention.

Should that happen, Mr. Bair said, he would argue that the public defender lacks standing to file the appeal because Thanos has been deemed to be competent and has said he doesn't want to appeal.

James K. Bredar, the federal public defender, declined to reveal his plans.

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