Steven Howard Oken's execution Thursday may be among the last within the sprawling prison complex on Madison Street, where the state has carried out all of its death sentences for nearly a century.
Within two years, state officials hope to move death row inmates from the Baltimore facility to a prison near rural Cumberland, where executions will be conducted.
"The plan is to eventually make the North Branch [Correctional Institute] what it was always intended to be - our primary maximum security facility," said state public safety and corrections chief Mary Ann Saar.
North Branch is being expanded, and Saar said that state officials hope to relocate death row and other inmates from the downtown Supermax facility to the Allegany County facility.
The future is unclear for Supermax, which was built in the mid-1980s. It might be converted into a pretrial detention center for inmates who are in custody for a short period of time, Saar said. Supermax is across the street from the building where Oken was executed Thursday night.
Saar said that at least one more of the seven Maryland inmates who are on death row is likely to be executed at the Madison Street facility. The inmate whose legal appeals are closest to being exhausted is Wesley Baker, she said.
Baker was convicted in Baltimore County on Oct. 30, 1992, of fatally shooting a woman in front of her grandchildren during a robbery.
Six other men are on death row, their cases in various stages of appeal. Three of them were convicted in 1984, the same year as Oken: Anthony Grandison, Vernon Evans and John Booth-El. The other three are: Heath Burch, sentenced in 1985; Jody Miles, sentenced in 1998; and Lawrence Borchardt, sentenced in 2000.
Oken was the 84th Maryland inmate to be put to death at the Baltimore prison complex since state law consolidated executions there in 1923.
Public executions were common in the 19th century, normally held in the county where the crime occurred, according to a history compiled by Maryland Penitentiary historian Wallace Shugg in an essay on the Department of Public Safety and Correction's Web site.
But in 1923, as sentiment was growing against public executions, state law was changed to require that all executions be carried out privately, in the Maryland penitentiary.
Seventy-six inmates were hanged there between 1923 and 1955. Since then, four people have been put to death in the gas chamber - the last in 1961. Four, including Oken, have been executed by lethal injection.
If executions are shifted to the remote Allegany County prison, it is expected to affect the kind of dueling protests that pro- and anti-death penalty advocates stage at the execution scene.
Such protests will no longer be spectacles within the shadows of the prison walls in urban Baltimore; it will be in a rural area that requires an hours-long drive for some to reach.
"It would make it much more difficult for protestors to make their views known," said Michael Stark, Baltimore-Washington coordinator of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
Stark noted that Maryland has "this bizarre and unique law that doesn't inform the public of the day of the execution" until three hours before the execution.
But he vowed that the change in location would not stop protestors.