Death penalty is impossible to rationalizeThe 1994 annual...

the Forum

March 14, 1994

Death penalty is impossible to rationalize

The 1994 annual session of the Maryland legislature is quickly coming to an end, but still on its agenda is the debate regarding the death penalty in the state.

The issue this year is whether or not the gas chamber will continue to be the "death instrument" of choice in the state, or whether it will be replaced by the "more humane" lethal injection.

As I see it, this is "much ado about nothing." Regardless of which method is employed, the end result -- death -- is the same.

Instead of attempting to assuage their respective consciences with a futile attempt at appearing to be more humane and merciful, our lawmakers should be addressing the basic issue -- the abolishment of capital punishment in Maryland.

There are literally dozens of rational and logical arguments to support doing away with the death penalty.

But a letter which I wrote and was printed in The Sun on May 6, 1981, points out the prime reason why capital punishment should not be an option in our criminal justice system. Since the points made in that letter are still as valid today as they were in 1981, I would like to re-state them:

In that letter it was pointed out that a woman was convicted of felony murder in Harford County and was sentenced to death, although her "guilt" was tied only to her being present when her husband actually did the killing.

Her husband had been tried and convicted of the same crime in another jurisdiction -- Wicomico County -- but he was sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death.

What made this case particularly curious was the fact that the Harford County state's attorney at the time, Peter C. Cobb, was quoted publicly as saying that the death penalty did not apply to the person not doing the actual killing.

In spite of this statement, the woman -- who did not do the killing -- received the death sentence while her husband -- who did the killing -- got "life" by a Wicomico County judge.

While this was happening in the two aforementioned counties, a similar trial was taking place in Howard County in which the state's attorney of that particular jurisdiction was seeking the death penalty for both defendants, even though only one of the two did the actual killing.

In effect, we had three state's attorneys, each of whom differed with the others regarding the death penalty "guidelines." Each of their decisions was totally subjective and capricious.

The constitutionality of the law is dependent upon objectivity. There is no room for subjective and/or capricious interpretations of it.

And still today, the death penalty is being doled out and sought after by judges and prosecutors in a most subjective and capricious manner -- activity which, I feel, negates the constitutionality of the capital punishment laws.

Our legislators should be making inroads in these areas rather than attempting to rationalize something which can in no way be rationalized.

Louis P. Boeri

Baltimore

Whatever

I suggest advocates of term limits write their congressional representatives and say: "You're doing a great job, but I intend to vote for your opponent -- regardless! -- in the next general election."

Then spurn all other factors and do it. This method has been constitutional since 1787.

Quentin D. Davis

Aberdeen

Laurel Redskins

With all the resources available to the governor, the Maryland Stadium Authority and the legislature, it continues to amaze that we haven't been able to present a sufficiently strong case to prove to the National Football League or Jack Kent Cooke that an NFL team in Baltimore is irrelevant to the location of the Washington Redskins.

In 1953 the Baltimore Colts joined the Redskins as the second NFL team in the Baltimore-Washington area. The Colts were profitable immediately, playing to sell-out crowds in Memorial Stadium.

In 1960, while the Colts were reigning world champions, Mr. Cooke acquired a minority interest in the Redskins. Clearly, the presence of a successful team nearby didn't present a problem to Mr. Cooke then or later, because in 1974 he bought out his partners and took full control.

The two teams and their fans developed a natural rivalry. In fact, the NFL arranged the schedule so that a Colts-Redskins game was played every year between 1953 and 1967.

The typical Baltimore football fan, who spends his own money for season tickets, is not going to support the Redskins. Nor could he buy a season ticket anyway, since there are some 40,000 people in line ahead of him.

Redskins fans support Mr. Cooke's team quite well, with or without a team in Baltimore. And they have done so even in RFK Stadium, without the amenities and the additional seating capacity he'll have if he builds in Laurel.

Mr. Cooke is offering Baltimore fans nothing; in fact, his plan would deprive the Baltimore fans of any opportunity to attend an NFL game. . .

Robert S. Gladden Jr.

Severna Park

Black underclass must try to pull itself up

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