Wesley Baker's case doesn't meet criteria for the death...


February 21, 2002

Wesley Baker's case doesn't meet criteria for the death penalty

I am horrified by Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor's decision to seek a death warrant against Wesley Baker ("Death warrant sought in 1991 case," Feb. 13).

Mr. Baker's case reflects a disturbing pattern in Maryland in which poor, black defendants accused of killing whites receive the death sentence more often than others accused of similar crimes. Neither the facts used to convict him nor the circumstances of the crime fit the standards set for death penalty cases.

It is not clear whether Mr. Baker shot Jane Tyson. His co-defendant had a criminal record that included crimes that mirror the circumstances of Ms. Tyson's death. And witness accounts contradict the state's theory of the crime.

To persuade the jury to apply a death sentence, prosecutors claimed Mr. Baker "intended" to kill Ms. Tyson. However, the facts indicate that the crime was anything but a planned or intentional murder; rather, it was a botched robbery attempt.

Finally, the jury was never told about Mr. Baker's extremely abusive childhood. Mr. Baker was raised in part by his abusive stepfather, who frequently beat Mr. Baker and his mother. From the age of 9, he lived on the streets.

Cases such as Baker's prompted Gov. Parris N. Glendening to fund the study of racism in Maryland's death penalty currently underway at the University of Maryland. We must not let him die before that study is complete.

Michael Stark


The writer is Baltimore-Washington coordinator of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Court finds specious excuse to delay Oken's execution

The leaders of the anti-capital punishment crowd should not waste their time lobbying in Annapolis to end the death penalty. The Maryland Court of Appeals has, in effect, circumvented the legislative will and ended the death penalty.

The majority on that court will use any excuse, however specious, not to enforce a death sentence ("Md. court delays Oken's execution," Feb. 7).

How else can you explain how a sociopath such as Steven Oken is still alive, 15 years after he was convicted of three brutal murders of three young women?

Michael Richardson


Plan to raise the pensions of ex-governors stinks

The article "Pension increase proposed for former governors of Md." (Feb. 15) was given an appropriate place on Page 2B, right next to an article on septic tanks. I think something really stinks here.

I'm sure other current and future state retirees would be pleased if their pensions were based on the same formula.

I can't believe someone would actually propose such a scheme, but I guess this is Maryland and anything goes.

We can only pray that the legislature will see the light and stop it in its tracks.

Keith F. Kelley


Grandstanding marred questioning of Enron's Lay

I agree that Kenneth L. Lay circumvented the trust of Enron employees. His actions were unacceptable and cowardly, to say the least.

However, members of the congressional investigating committee, knowing there was a large TV audience, grabbed the opportunity (for political gain) to humiliate and disgrace a beaten man.

Mr. Lay's appearance before the committee was to invoke his Fifth Amendment right -- and that should have been all there was to it. But some members of the committee relished the chance to grandstand in front of the TV cameras.

Bill Kearns


Enron gifts taint legislators investigating the company

The only thing more disgusting and morally reprehensible than the behavior of Enron Corp.'s former CEO Kenneth Lay is the behavior of elected officials -- elected with and supported by Enron campaign contributions -- who are trying to get to the bottom of the scandal.

Every elected official who took campaign contributions should either refund the "soft money" he or she received to a fund that will help the children of Enron employees who lost their jobs and savings, or yield his or her seat on the congressional committee investigating Enron to one of the displaced Enron employees.

Chip Goetz


Front-curb recycling scheme adds to the city's visual blight

While I appreciate efforts to use scarce city dollars carefully, I add my voice to those unhappy with the city's new scheme to collect recycling from the front curb.

Recently, during my usually pleasant drive down St. Paul Street on my way to work, I was dismayed that the mayor's new policy has managed to make the entire city look like a slum. Charles Village was particularly awful.

The new recycling policy may save tens of thousands of dollars but has inflicted $1 million worth of visual damage.

Benjamin Feldman


Thanks to the brilliant insight of the director of public works, my neighborhood looks like a dump. Maybe the director should be the one to come to my neighborhood to pick up all the trash that litters my yard and the yards of my neighbors.

Thanks so much for making sure I won't recycle again.

T. Bavis


Palestinians' disobedience should begin with Arafat

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