Death penalty appeal proposal withdrawn

June 25, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Office of Public Defender has withdrawn a proposed rule change that critics had labeled a "back-door" attempt to slow down the death penalty appeals process.

As a result of public defender Stephen E. Harris' decision late Friday, legislators called off a planned hearing on the matter yesterday.

The state attorney general's office had charged that the proposed rule change would have kept Maryland from complying with a new federal law that lets states avoid some death penalty appeals.

The change would have eliminated language outlining qualifications for attorneys hired to handle death penalty appeals.

The withdrawal by the public defender came two days after Gov. Parris N. Glendening come out against the proposed change. In a letter to the governor, Harris contended that the change would not have had the effect the attorney general's office claimed, but he said he would comply with the governor's wishes.

The public defender's office represents indigent defendants in Maryland, giving it a compelling reason to prefer the current process, under which death penalty appeals can delay an execution for a decade or more.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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