Harford Week

March 16, 2003

Death sentence appeal based on judge's residency

In a bid for a new sentencing hearing for a man on death row, the lawyer for Wesley Baker asked the state's highest court last week to rule that the Harford County judge who sentenced Baker to die forfeited his judicial authority by temporarily moving from the county or to order a fact-finding hearing on the allegation that the judge moved.

"I'm here because Wesley Baker sits on the precipice of being executed by a judge who did not have the authority" to sentence him, Stuart Jay Robinson, Baker's lawyer, argued to the Court of Appeals.

But Assistant Attorney General Anne N. Bosse told the seven-member court that even if Judge Cypert O. Whitfill temporarily lived in Cockeysville during the late 1980s, as alleged by Baker's lawyer, he did not switch to a new permanent address or lose his judicial authority in Harford County.

In 1992, at a time when all agree that Whitfill lived in Harford, he sentenced Baker to die for fatally shooting 49-year-old Jane Tyson in front of her grandchildren in a 1991 robbery that netted $10. The crime occurred in the parking lot at Westview Mall in Catonsville, but Baker asked to be tried outside Baltimore County.

Association sues over use of Deer Creek water

A Harford County group filed suit in federal court Wednesday seeking to strike down the Susquehanna River Basin Commissions decision to allow the city of Aberdeen to draw water from a designated scenic stream during emergencies.

The Deer Creek Watershed Association, made up primarily of property owners whose land is next to the creek, filed its suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. The action comes after the city indicated two weeks ago that chemical contamination in several city wells led officials to shut them down late last month, creating an emergency need.

The city, which won a privatization contract several years ago to take over Aberdeen Proving Ground's water system, draws water from the creek to supply the installation.

State's high court rejects death row inmate's appeal

Maryland's highest court has rejected an appeal by death row inmate Steven H. Oken that was based on a University of Maryland study of the state's death penalty law.

Oken faces execution for the 1987 killing of Dawn Marie Garvin, a Joppatowne High School graduate. Garvin, 20, was living in a White Marsh apartment and taking classes at Harford Community College at the time of her death.

Oken had appealed for a new sentencing hearing using criminologist Raymond Paternoster's state-commissioned study. Paternoster found that geography and race of the victim play a large role in the chances of a defendant facing the death penalty in Maryland.

In an order signed Tuesday by Judge Irma S. Raker, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied Oken's request.

Aberdeen to hold town meeting on wells

Aberdeen announced that it would hold a town meeting on a proposed protection program for the city's wells from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Aberdeen Senior Center, 10 Franklin St.

Business owners, residents and students will join officials from the town, state and Environmental Protection Agency to discuss how the community can better protect its wells, which sit along the western boundary of Aberdeen Proving Ground.

The workshop will include demonstrations, displays and educational briefings on how to develop a wellfield protection program for the city of Aberdeen. Information: 410-272-1600.

Aberdeen Class of '51 honored at HCC

The Harford Community College Foundation was host at a recent gathering at the school's library for a dedication of the reading and reference room to the 54 members of the Aberdeen High School Class of 1951.

A donor from the class established two endowments with the foundation to support the educational development of students at the college, one for a scholarship and the other to be used by the college as needed.

Sharon Gallagher, executive director of the foundation, told the group, "We believe every student should have the opportunity to attend college, and a donation of this magnitude strongly supports President [Claudia E.] Chiesi's philosophy of `students first,'" she said.

"Even after the contribution of this beautiful study area on behalf of your class, this endowment will continue to grow and help future students," she said.

The contribution will be reinvested, along with 10 percent of the interest. The rest of the interest will go toward scholarships, emergency student loans and programs.

A bronze plaque listing class members' names and their two homeroom teachers was installed on the window wall.

The reading/reference room dedicated to Aberdeen's Class of '51 has floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a panoramic view of the campus.

The study tables feature laptop Internet hook-up capabilities and indirect lighting. Divided and screened by plantings for privacy and sound absorption, the tables are also separated by lounge seating that creates areas for less formal reading and study.

The foundation assists the college by receiving and administering private gifts, bequests and donations to benefit students and enhance the quality of teaching and learning at the college.

To donate to the Aberdeen High School Class of 1951 fund, call Gallagher at 410-836-4449.

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