Saturday Mailbox


December 03, 2005

Joining the chorus of foes of execution

State-sanctioned murder should be stopped, starting with the execution Maryland has scheduled for next week ("Clemency and justice," editorial, Nov. 30).

Joining the growing chorus of individuals and organizations opposing the death penalty is the League of Women Voters of Maryland, which this year completed a study on whether the death penalty should continue to be applied in our state.

The Maryland league will be joining state League of Women Voters chapters in Illinois, New York and New Jersey and those in the 12 states that have abolished the death penalty in advocating a nationwide ban on the death penalty.

Among the concerns raised in our report were:

Jurisdictional differences. Baltimore County seeks the death penalty in all eligible cases, with the result that a majority of the men on death row in Maryland were convicted in Baltimore County.

Racial bias. Studies in Maryland as well as nationally indicate that the vast majority of those executed have been found guilty of murdering white victims, despite the fact that blacks are victims in about 50 percent of U.S. murders (and about 80 percent in Maryland).

Deterrence. Murder rates in states with a death penalty are higher than in states without a death penalty. FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for 2002 show that the average murder rate among death-penalty states was 5.23 per 100,000 people while the murder rate in non-death-penalty states was 2.8.

Costs. According to nationwide studies, it costs more to execute a defendant than to keep him in prison for life. Providing food, health care and other basic essentials for the incarcerated prisoner for life costs much less than the legal costs for trials and multiple appeals, when both prosecution and defense attorney fees, court costs, investigative and other expenses are factored in.

Opponents of the death penalty, who maintain that every human life is sacred, cite the simple moral argument, "thou shalt not kill."

We believe that principle should apply equally to individuals and the state.

Marcia D. Reinke


The writer is co-president of the Baltimore County League of Women Voters.

Death penalty sends killers right signal

Cardinal William H. Keeler appeared on the TV news Monday night to tell everyone that we (society) are sending "the wrong message" concerning the sanctity of human life by planning the execution of Wesley Eugene Baker, the criminal guilty of shooting a woman, Jane Tyson, right in front of her two young grandchildren ("Keeler sees killer, appeals execution," Nov. 29). This happened behind Westview Mall in Catonsville in 1991.

I think that the "wrong message" would be sent to society, and to the swarm of criminals who infest it, by not executing Mr. Baker.

If any murderer deserves the death penalty, it is Mr. Baker.

To fail to execute him would be to say to the would-be murderers of the future: "Relax, go ahead and kill someone. For punishment, you will get to: read, watch TV, work out in the jail yard and develop a great body, eat regular meals, drink and enjoy coffee, commiserate and recreate with your co-jailbirds, sleep in a warm bunk, dream and enjoy the rest of your life behind bars, all on the state's tab."

The real question, as far as I am concerned, is this: Is a sanitized, painless, injection-style execution really enough to deter the future killers lurking out there in our society?

And does what may be a painless execution really afford any sense of justice for the victims and their survivors?

Vince DiGiosafati


Let governor heed Keeler's appeal

I really appreciated the coverage of Cardinal William H. Keeler's visit to pray with Wesley Eugene Baker, who has been scheduled for execution next week ("Keeler sees killer, appeals execution," Nov. 29).

As a believer in abolishing of the barbaric and ineffective death penalty, I was there to witness Cardinal Keeler as he departed from the "SuperMax" prison, which houses Maryland's death row.

I thanked him that night for doing what Jesus did - comforting the poor, the abused and the afflicted.

Before meeting with Mr. Baker, the cardinal spoke with the family of the victim, Jane Tyson, whose death was a horrible crime. However, today it remains unclear who actually killed her.

And Mr. Baker's life is typical of that of many of the inmates on death row - almost all are desperately poor and were abused as children. Couple this with the racism pervasive in the justice system and the matter of often-inadequate counsel during the trial and sentencing, and the end result is frequently being placed on death row.

Today, I thank Cardinal Keeler for attending to his pastoral duty and petitioning the governor to commute the death sentence.

Tomorrow, I hope to praise Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for commuting Mr. Baker's death sentence.

Such an act of mercy would resound loudly with the children.

Otherwise, the lesson learned will be to kill a person accused of killing in order to teach that killing is wrong.

Max Obuszewski


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