Up for debate: Which murder is most heinous? Gregory...


May 26, 2002

Up for debate: Which murder is most heinous?

Gregory Kane's column "Homicide data should give death penalty foes pause" (May 22) seeks to justify the racial disparity on Maryland's death row with statistics that show that blacks on death row are not out of proportion to their numbers as offenders in felony murder cases and that whites are more often the victims of felony homicides.

Mr. Kane's premise is that these statistics are relevant because felony murder is the most likely way to be death-penalty eligible in Maryland, and perpetrators of felony murder are considered the "most vicious and dangerous."

What he does not question is the legislative judgment that felony murder is the worst of all homicides and its perpetrators the most vicious and dangerous.

What data support this premise? How is it that someone who sets out to kill a former lover, family member or coworker, or participates in a gang-related homicide (and Mr. Kane's statistics show these crimes are more often committed by whites) is less dangerous than someone who intends to rob someone but, in a moment of panic or impulse, kills the robbery victim (the classic felony murder)?

Put simply, how is a premeditated murderer less dangerous than a person who kills in reckless disregard for the life of another - the standard the law sets for felony murder?

If we cannot truly say that felony murderers are the most vicious and dangerous, then how can we use statistics showing that blacks commit more felony murders against white victims to justify the number of blacks on Maryland's death row?

Indeed, the astute questioner would ask: Is the racial disparity a product of the way our death penalty laws are conceived and written?

No, it's not the homicide data that should give death penalty foes pause.

Rather, it is the ill-conceived premise that most felony murderers are more dangerous and vicious than other murderers that should give us all reason to reflect on just what it is we are seeking to accomplish with the death penalty.

Denise C. Barrett


The writer is assistant public defender in the U.S. District Court for Maryland.

Playing politics at victims' expense

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his lieutenant governor have now perpetrated the most horrendous miscarriage of justice and disrespect in their political careers ("Glendening halts executions," May 10). Victims be damned.

By choosing political expediency over the will of the majority and the rights of those victimized by violent killers sentenced to proper execution, both parties have once again shown their inability to govern with an even hand.

When will Maryland again get leadership truly interested in preserving law and order rather than acting as a lackey for the criminal element that destroys our social order?

Ronald L. Dowling


Governor was right to stop the killing

Whatever his reason, whatever his justification, Gov. Parris N. Glendening has made a courageous and honorable decision to stop the killing.

Many of us believe in this simple concept: People should not kill people. States, which represent people, also should not kill people.

We shouldn't kill based on religion, color or politics. We shouldn't kill because the other person did something bad or has something we want.

No killing. Period.

Mac Nachlas


The watermen need more than sympathy

It's mighty big of Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials to tell Maryland watermen and Maryland's packing house employees that they are "sympathetic" to their misfortunes ("The cost of conservation," May 21). But that doesn't put food on their tables or a roof over their heads.

If Congress can pass a bill that compensates farmers across America to the tune of $90 billion, surely here at home a congressman can come up with legislation to help the state's watermen.

LeRoy R. McClelland Sr.


Keeler's apology is too little, too late

The Sun's May 17 headline should have read: "Keeler FINALLY apologizes for abuse by priests." But the church's focus still seems to be on itself, not on the children and families who have suffered so long.

One Johnny-come-lately apology is certainly not enough for closure.

Janet Thurston


Don't blame press for sex abuse scandal

The thrust of Paul McHugh's article on the sexual abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church seems to be that the church has taken "actions" over the past decade to curb sexual abuse by priests and that these have been largely "downplayed" by the media ("Stokes case: From victim to vigilante?" May 19).

In fact, according to Mr. McHugh, we've had a "belligerent frenzy characteristic of media reports." In other words, if you don't like the message, attack the messenger.

The recent articles I've read, both local and national, have been fairly objective, citing specific incidents of abuse by priests and the attempts of the church hierarchy to suppress abuse claims and to transfer the accused priests to other parishes without informing parishioners of the accusations.

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