Governor exhorted to halt June execution

Supporters seek to have Colvin-El's life spared, call for Md. moratorium

May 10, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Death penalty opponents went to Annapolis yesterday to urge Gov. Parris N. Glendening to spare the life of convicted murderer Eugene Colvin-El.

In a half-page newspaper ad and during a news conference outside the State House, activists called on the governor to stop the execution of Colvin-El, scheduled for the week of June 12.

Among those who spoke was Marion Tillery, Colvin-El's niece. Asked what she would tell the governor if she could talk to him, a tearful Tillery replied: "I would say, `Mr. Governor, would you please have mercy. My uncle is innocent of this.' "

Death penalty opponents are focusing in part on the question of whether blacks are more likely to be sentenced to death in Maryland.

Glendening recently allocated $225,000 in state funds to study whether the death penalty is inequitably applied to blacks here. Twelve of the 17 men facing execution in Maryland are black, including Colvin-El.

Concerns about a racial disparity in the application of the death penalty had been "theoretical," said Del. Salima S. Marriott, a leader in the call for a moratorium on executions in Maryland.

"Now we have an African-American man who personifies the racial injustice," said Marriott, a Baltimore Democrat. "We are here to call on the governor to immediately declare a moratorium."

Glendening, a death penalty supporter who has signed death warrants in the only two cases to reach his desk, declined to discuss any aspect of the Colvin-El case.

The governor said he would thoroughly review the record and said he would not consider imposing a moratorium on executions during that review.

"I appreciate the passion and emotion on both sides of this issue," Glendening said. "My responsibility is to apply the law objectively."

Death penalty opponents ran an ad in The Sun yesterday that listed dozens of supporters of clemency for Colvin-El, including actress Susan Sarandon, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois and Kirk N. Bloodsworth, who was cleared of a murder conviction after spending nine years on Maryland's death row.

Colvin-El, 55, was convicted of the 1980 robbery and stabbing murder of Lena S. Buckman, 82, a Florida resident who was visiting her daughter in Pikesville.

Colvin-El's supporters have called the evidence against him weak, but prosecutors have defended the case that led to the death sentence.

A lawyer for Colvin-El said he would deliver a formal clemency request to Glendening today.

The Maryland case comes at a time of renewed national scrutiny of how the death penalty has been carried out since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

In Illinois, Republican Gov. George Ryan recently declared a moratorium on executions amid concerns that the state had wrongfully convicted several people under death sentences.

Tomorrow in Washington, a group of prominent public officials, academics and others are scheduled to announce the formation of a committee to examine the death penalty and the problem of wrongful convictions.

The committee is to include both supporters and opponents of capital punishment.

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