Schaefer gives death row no clemency

January 18, 1995|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Sun Staff Writer

Despite a last-ditch appeal for clemency, Gov. William Donald Schaefer will end his term in office today as a rarity -- a 20th-century Maryland governor who never commuted a death sentence.

"This is the first governor since 1915 not to commute a death penalty sentence," said Richard Dowling, spokesman for the Maryland Catholic Conference.

"It breaks an historical chain that gives hope to those of us who believe that the founders intended the application of mercy by the chief executive."

While Mr. Schaefer finished his last full day in office without commuting the sentence of anyone on Maryland's death row, he did pardon other criminals, approved some draft regulations that could strengthen the state's handgun law, had bagels and coffee with his staff, and watched as a platform was erected on the State House steps for the inaugural address of his successor.

"I'm getting paid until 12 o'clock tonight," Mr. Schaefer said on a final busy day in which the hallways outside his office were crowded with men moving desks and chairs.

Mr. Schaefer granted full pardons yesterday to six people convicted and punished for committing crimes in Maryland. He commuted to life imprisonment the sentence for a seventh, Drexel O. Davis, who 10 years ago in Baltimore County was sentenced to life without parole and now will be eligible for parole.

Joseph L. Harrison, Mr. Schaefer's spokesman, described the actions as routine referrals from the state parole commission. He acknowledged that the governor had been lobbied recently on at least one death penalty case but declined to identify it.

The governor's new handgun proposals would strengthen the state's 1988 handgun control law -- a landmark piece of legislation that propelled Mr. Schaefer into a fight with the National Rifle Association.

The propoed regulations would establish more specific standards for the state's Handgun Roster Board to use in determining which handguns should be banned for sale in Maryland. Under the proposal, the board would be permitted to apply the new standards retroactively to guns already on the approved list to see if they should remain there.

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