Governor won't save Hunt from execution Fate of killer is high court's decision

June 04, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening refused yesterday to save convicted killer Flint Gregory Hunt from the gas chamber, saying he felt that if ever a crime warranted the ultimate punishment, "This is it."

Glendening made his decision three days after the Maryland Court of Appeals delayed Hunt's execution for the 1985 killing of Baltimore police Officer Vincent J. Adolfo until at least September to review whether errors were made during his trial and sentencing.

In a petition for clemency delivered to the governor last week, Hunt, 36, apologized for his crime in a videotaped telephone call from prison. "If I am going to leave this Earth, I must have people understand that I am really, really sorry and how I feel," Hunt said.

His 19-year-old son, Gregory Hunt, appeared on the tape to tell the governor, "If my father is executed, I will be devastated. I love my father with all of my heart and my father loves me with all of his heart."

In a brief interview yesterday, the governor said he had carefully reviewed the entire petition and videotape -- and was not swayed.

"With the number of juries and appellate courts involved, I feel that this sentence is reasonable, especially given the circumstances involved in this killing," Glendening said.

The governor, noting that the case dated back 11 years, also said he was frustrated that the death penalty did not work in a more timely manner.

Hunt was fleeing from a stolen car when Adolfo chased him into a street called Iron Alley in East Baltimore. As Adolfo tried to arrest him, Hunt pushed back, pulled a .357-caliber Magnum Blackhawk and shot the 25-year-old officer in the chest. As the officer screamed in pain, Hunt cocked the gun and shot him in the back.

Hunt has been sentenced to die twice -- once after his murder trial in 1986, and after the Court of Appeals overturned his sentence and prosecutors sought it again in 1988.

The videotaped petition for clemency included statements from three jurors who voted for death on the second Hunt sentencing panel. The jurors asked Glendening to commute Hunt's sentence to life without parole, an option not available to the jurors at the time.

Glendening would not comment on his reaction to the jurors' statements. "It is inappropriate for me to go into a discussion of any detailed observations of my thoughts," he said, noting that the matter is still before the court.

The decision drew ire from opponents of the death penalty, who accused the governor of trying to score political points instead of taking more time to review the specifics of the case.

Members of those groups were joined last week by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson in a plea for Glendening to stop the execution and fulfill a promise to study racial disparities in the application of the death penalty in Maryland. Glendening has said he will complete such a study but will not hold up Hunt's execution in the meantime.

"This is an extremely disappointing rush to judgment by our governor," said Fred R. Joseph, president of the Maryland Criminal Defense Attorneys' Association. "I know that he's a man of compassion and someone who has said he wanted to keep politics out of the issue. It appears politics has become a significant part of his decision-making process."

Assistant Public Defender Katy C. O'Donnell said she was shocked that the decision had come so quickly. She said Glendening was asked to consider issues that could not be included in arguments to the court.

"It seems baffling that he would choose this time to deny the petition," she said.

But Adolfo's widow praised the governor's announcement. She said she has waited too long for justice to be done for her husband.

"It does give us a little hope," said Karen Adolfo, who said she was still devastated by the Court of Appeals' action. "That does give us the security for the months to come to know where he stands. Anything that can get us through these next couple months."

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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