Execution appeal denied

May 14, 1994|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Sun Staff Writer

A last effort to save the life of a killer who doesn't want to be saved failed yesterday when Maryland's highest court refused to stop the execution of John Frederick Thanos.

The American Civil Liberties Union had sought an injunction from the Court of Appeals so that it could present evidence to prove that the lethal injection planned by Maryland officials is cruel and unusual punishment, but the court denied the request.

"We're disappointed," said Michael J. Gentile, a Towson attorney working on behalf of the ACLU. But he added, "We're not going to do anything further to stop the Thanos execution."

Thanos was sentenced to die for the August 1990 robbery and murder of Gregory A. Taylor Jr., 18, an Eastern Shore welder who had given Thanos a ride. He is also under a death sentence for the murders of Billy Winebrenner, 16, and Melody Pistorio, 14, who were killed in a Labor Day 1990 holdup in Middle River.

Barring an extraordinary circumstance, state corrections officials now have clearance to execute Thanos any time after midnight tomorrow night.

Legally, the execution can take place any time next week. Corrections officials will not announce it ahead of time.

Richard B. Rosenblatt, an assistant attorney general for the department of corrections, said an attorney for another death row inmate went to U.S. District Court in Washington yesterday in an effort to stop the Thanos execution but failed.

Attorney Jerome H. Nickerson, who is representing death row inmate Tyrone Gilliam, had asked a federal judge in Washington for an injunction to halt the Thanos execution, Mr. Rosenblatt said.

Mr. Nickerson could not be reached for comment. Mr. Rosenblatt said he did not know whether the Rockville attorney would ask for another injunction this weekend.

"We're confident the Supreme Court would deny any such injunction request," Mr. Rosenblatt said.

Thanos, who fired his attorneys and dropped appeals, would become the first person executed in Maryland in 33 years and the first to die by lethal injection.

Thanos' mother and sister had filed appeals in state and federal court, arguing that he is mentally incompetent, but those appeals failed, and his relatives decided this week to end their efforts to save his life.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer has the power to stay the execution, but he continues to say he will not become involved, said Page W. Boinest, his press secretary.

"As of this time, he sees no reason to hold up the execution," Ms. Boinest said yesterday.

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