Governor asked to give inmate execution stay or commuted life term

Delay is sought pending death penalty study's end

May 08, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening was formally asked yesterday to cancel next week's execution of Wesley Eugene Baker or at least postpone it until a state-funded death penalty study is completed in September - a decision the state's chief executive should make this week if the convicted killer is to avoid death by lethal injection.

Baker's lawyers hand-delivered a petition for clemency and a request for a stay of execution to Glendening's lawyers in Annapolis, a day after their last-ditch appeals were denied by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Baker, 44, is scheduled to die on a day next week selected by state corrections officials, but not before May 13, for shooting Jane Tyson to death in front of her grandchildren during a robbery outside the Westview Mall in 1991.

The exact date for Baker's execution won't be known to the public until the day it is to occur, according to state law.

William Purpura, the Baltimore lawyer who wrote the petitions, said he hopes Glendening will review the petitions with state lawyers today or tomorrow.

Baker's legal team is requesting either an order commuting his death sentence to life without parole or an alternative order that would delay the execution until a University of Maryland study of the death penalty is completed.

"It's two separate requests, one for clemency and one for a stay of execution," Purpura said.

Baker's lawyers argue in the petitions that Glendening should spare Baker's life because of his troubled childhood and because the UM study is expected to show that the death penalty is disproportionately applied to minorities.

Nine of the 13 inmates on Maryland's death row are African-American, including Baker. All but one were sentenced to die for killing white victims.

The petition also says that Baker's mother, Delores Williams, became pregnant with him when she was 13 and that they lived with his mother's parents for three years after he was born.

"As can only be imagined, being raised by such a young mother, Wesley Baker's life was chaotic, unstable and intolerable," the petition said.

After Baker's grandmother died, Baker's mother moved when he was 5 to the Lafayette Courts housing project, where Baker began drinking vodka and using marijuana by age 10 and began shooting heroin by 14, according to the petition.

When Baker was 8, his mother began dating an ex-convict, who repeatedly abused her and forced Baker to watch him shoot heroin, the petition said. Baker ran away from home, frequenting The Block and "sleeping in movie theaters, hotel bathrooms and abandoned cars," according to the petition.

He quit school in the eighth grade, and at 14, according to the petition, began a relationship with a woman in her late 20s who supported her heroin habit by working as a prostitute. Baker fathered a child with the woman, Eloise Logan, when he was 15, according to the petition. The couple broke up, and Logan later died.

Their child continued to live with Baker's mother and visited Baker when he was in jail after being convicted in a series of car theft and armed robbery charges, according to the petition.

Prosecutors who argued for the death sentence told Harford Circuit Judge Cypert O. Whitfill that Baker never held a steady job and was convicted and jailed four times before Tyson's murder in 1991.

Court records show that Baker was convicted of three city car thefts in the 1970s, including one 1976 case in which he also was convicted of transporting a shotgun.

In 1979, he was convicted of armed robbery in Baltimore County, according to court records, and sentenced to 15 years. Two years after his release in 1987, he was convicted of possession of marijuana and illegal possession of a handgun, sentenced to two years and paroled in 1990, the records show.

At the time of Tyson's murder, he had been charged in a warrant with violating terms of his 1990 parole by not reporting to his parole officer, according to the records.

Raquel Guillory, a Glendening spokeswoman, said yesterday that the governor "has heard the concerns raised by many people and by the lieutenant governor, and he will consider those concerns when he reviews the [clemency] material and makes his decision."

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