Appeals court denies plea to delay Baker's execution

Hearing on death penalty to be set, lawyer says

April 06, 2002|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The state's highest court rejected a request yesterday to postpone the execution of Wesley Eugene Baker, setting the stage for his death by lethal injection next month.

The Court of Appeals voted 5-2 to deny an appeal filed by Baker, whose death warrant was signed March 19 for the fatal shooting in 1991 of Jane Tyson outside Westview Mall.

The court announced its decision in a one-page order signed yesterday by Judge John C. Eldridge. Chief Judge Robert M. Bell and Judge Glenn T. Harrell Jr. dissented.

Baker would be the first Maryland inmate to be executed since 1998.

Gary Christopher, Baker's lawyer, said Harford County Circuit Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr. plans to hear arguments that the state's death penalty disproportionately targets minorities and that Baker is entitled to a new trial. Nine of the 13 inmates on death row are black.

Christopher said Baldwin has not set a date for that hearing.

Christopher said he also plans to seek a review of Baker's case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Baker's lawyers had argued to the appeals court in papers filed last month that the Supreme Court could rewrite the nation's death penalty requirements when it rules in an Arizona case in June. They asked the court to delay his execution until that ruling.

The death warrant signed last month by Harford Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill set Baker's execution for the week of May 13, with the exact date to be set by state prison officials.

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