Protesters gather to halt execution of Colvin-el

Death-penalty opponents say convicted murderer did not get a fair trial

May 27, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

About 200 people rallied at one of Baltimore's best-known churches last night to halt the execution set next month of Eugene Colvin-el, with his supporters taking to the pulpit to fight for his life.

Colvin-el, 55, is scheduled to die by lethal injection during the week of June 12 for the 1980 slaying of an 82-year-old widow.

But at a rally organized by death-penalty opponents at Bethel AME Church, Colvin-el's supporters called on Gov. Parris N. Glendening to grant him a reprieve.

"Please, Governor Parris Glendening, have mercy. See the case for what it is: a sham," said Norma Brooks-McRoy, Colvin-el's niece.

Speakers included U.S. Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat who has asked Glendening to spare Colvin-el, and Jesse L. Jackson Jr., an Illinois Democrat who has sponsored a bill calling for a national moratorium on executions.

"I just don't think we have a situation here that meets the standard for the death penalty," Cummings said.

Cummings wrote to Glendening Thursday and asked him to commute Colvin-el's death sentence to a life term.

"Mr. Colvin-el has been sentenced to die on the basis of legal proceedings so flawed as to shock the conscience," Cummings said in the letter.

He joined former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and state Dels. Howard P. Rawlings and Salima S. Marriott in asking Glendening to impose a moratorium on all executions until a $225,000 University of Maryland study on race and the death penalty is completed.

"No man nor woman in America should die at the State's hand while doubts remain," Cummings wrote.

Colvin-el was convicted of stabbing Lena S. Buckman 28 times during the robbery of her daughter's home on Sept. 9, 1980.

The victim's son, William Buckman, 70, of Northbrook, Ill., and daughter, Marjorie Surell, 75, of Baltimore say their lives were shattered by the slaying.

They sat through two trials and remain convinced of Colvin-el's guilt.

Both have written letters strongly urging Glendening not to intervene in his execution.

But Colvin-el's relatives, along with death-penalty opponents, said last night that the case raises troubling questions.

"Mrs. Lena Buckman was murdered. But Eugene Colvin-el did not murder her," Brooks-McRoy told the audience.

Colvin-el was sentenced to death in two trials after his fingerprint was found on a piece of glass that had been broken from a rear door through which police say he entered the house.

He also pawned two watches stolen from the home, according to the evidence.

But his supporters said last night that the evidence does not firmly establish that he entered the house where the murder occurred.

The jewelry was pawned eight days after the murder. The piece of glass bearing the fingerprint was found outside the house.

The first jury that convicted and sentenced Colvin-el, who is black, in 1981 was all-white. A second jury impaneled to sentence him in 1992 after a series of appeals had only one black member.

"Race is all over this case. It cannot be denied," said Colvin-el's clemency petition.

Glendening, who is due to return from a European trade mission late next week, will thoroughly review Colvin-el's 65-page clemency petition, along with the court record and any letters written by the defendant's and victim's families, according to a spokesman.

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