Daughter of 1991 murder victim seeks meeting with Glendening

Woman wants explanation for execution halt, calls move politically motivated

May 10, 2002|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

The daughter of the woman murdered by Wesley Baker is furious with Gov. Parris N. Glendening's decision to impose a death penalty moratorium and challenged the governor to a face-to-face meeting to explain his rationale.

Karen Sulewski's two children, now 15 and 17, were with their grandmother, Jane Tyson, when Baker shot Tyson in the head during a robbery in 1991. Yesterday, Sulewski accused Glendening of caving in to political pressure to help the lieutenant governor's bid to succeed him.

"I think that Kathleen Kennedy Townsend had to put her 2 cents in, and I think that had a lot do with it," said Sulewski, who lives in Finksburg.

"I honestly think if this event had happened to someone the governor knew or someone on his staff or someone he was close to, the execution would be going through," she continued. "No one knows what it is like to have it drag on and on and on."

Last month, Townsend asked Glendening to halt all executions until the release of a University of Maryland study examining possible racial bias in the state's application of the death penalty. Glendening, a supporter of the death penalty, did just that yesterday, saying people needed to have complete confidence in the justice system.

No other members of the Tyson or Baker families would comment.

But Sulewski maintains race had no role in Baker's death sentence and asked Glendening to explain his decision. "I would like him to sit down and explain it to my two children," she said.

Glendening spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the governor has a long-standing policy of not speaking to the families of death-row inmates or their victims. "What they need to understand is the governor has not commuted the sentence," Guillory said. "The execution is just on hold."

Susan Bayly, Glendening's legal counsel, called Sulewski's sister, Tammy Hunsinger, yesterday morning to tell her of the governor's decision.

In 1991, Baker shot Tyson in the parking lot of Westview Mall after robbing her of $10.

Sulewski planned to discuss the governor's decision with her children last night. Her older child, Adam, is scheduled to graduate from Westminster High School on June 9. "This is supposed to be a happy time for us," she said. "We finally thought it was going to be over and done with, and now it is not."

Baker is one of 13 men - nine of whom are black - on Maryland's death row. None of them will be executed until the moratorium is lifted.

Sulewski does not accept the argument that the death penalty is inherently racist.

"These people on death row were all found guilty, and more of them are black than white?" she asked. "I can't help that."

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