Judge formally approves taping of Thanos' death

March 23, 1994|By Marcia Myers and Glenn Small | Marcia Myers and Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writers

A federal judge has granted the request of a death row inmate who sought to videotape John Thanos' execution as possible evidence that Maryland's gas chamber poses cruel and unusual punishment.

But the issue will become moot if legislation authorizing lethal injection as a second form of execution is signed into law, as expected later this week.

The written order, signed by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, affirms an earlier oral ruling that was contingent on his first-hand inspection of the gas chamber.

The judge made that visit in January. His ruling also would allow for Thanos' brain waves to be monitored by an electroencephalograph during the execution and for an expert witness to attend the execution.

Maryland is the only state in which lethal gas is the sole means of execution.

The execution of Thanos, who confessed to killing three teen-agers during a weeklong crime spree in 1990, is set for the week of April 25.

Meanwhile, federal public defenders and a Washington law firm who are trying to save Thanos from execution moved a step closer to a court hearing on Thanos' competency.

Yesterday, the attorneys filed court papers in St. Mary's County Circuit Court, saying their post-conviction petition should not be dismissed, as prosecutors argue, because Thanos is incompetent and therefore his sister and mother have the right to file an appeal.

Larry A. Nathans, chief assistant federal public defender for Maryland, said no court hearing has been set, but a judge has been chosen.

Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Audrey Melbourne will decide whether to hold a hearing on the matter and whether Thanos' relatives can file an appeal on his behalf.

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