Thanos makes no choice on execution method

April 08, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

LEONARDTOWN -- With a baby-blue skull cap on his head and a smile on his face, killer John Frederick Thanos left the St. Mary's County courthouse here yesterday without saying if he will choose the gas chamber or lethal injection as the means of his impending execution.

When asked which he preferred, Thanos replied, "Neither of them."

However, in court, Thanos referred to a letter in which he said his preferred method of death would be by heart attack -- while in the arms of two beautiful women.

"They didn't include your method in the legislation," Judge Marvin S. Kaminetz said, suppressing a grin.

The judge brought Thanos into court to make sure he knows his rights under Maryland's revised death penalty statute. Judge Kaminetz told Thanos that if he does nothing, the execution will be by lethal injection.

If Thanos wants to die in the gas chamber, he must notify the judge and the commissioner of corrections in writing two weeks before the execution, now scheduled for the week of May 16.

Thanos, 44, would become the first person to be executed in Maryland in more than 30 years, if a last-minute appeal to save his life -- filed by his mother and sister without his permission -- fails.

A preliminary hearing on that state post-conviction appeal is set for next week. Federal public defenders and a Washington law firm are arguing that Thanos is mentally incompetent, and therefore his sister and mother have the right to appeal for him.

Lawyers from the state attorney general's office oppose the appeal, arguing that Thanos' relatives lack standing to appeal.

Thanos said yesterday he wants to be at the court hearing -- a departure from his past complaints about being brought into court and taken away from his "sanctuary" at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore.

Letters and affidavits in the court file said Thanos was outraged that his mother, Pattie Matney, and sister, Diane Genco, had filed an appeal without his permission.

At one point, he told a former attorney that if he could escape, he would "torture" his mother and sister "with the most cruel diabolical methods ever devised by man."

However, in recent letters to his family, Thanos' anger over the filing of the appeal seems to have subsided.

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