The crime, not his race, put Baker on death row

December 03, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

So another Maryland death row inmate is scheduled to take the lethal injection needle. And, again, anti-death penalty activists have yanked out their ever-handy race card.

Wesley Baker killed Jane Tyson in 1991 on the parking lot of Westview Mall in Catonsville. Not even the presence of Tyson's two grandchildren deterred Baker. He was sentenced to death for the crime, and his death warrant says he should be executed sometime next week.

Baker is black. His victim was white. Death penalty opponents point to that to support their claim that Maryland's death penalty is racist. They talk of a racial disparity -- blacks are disproportionately represented on death row, and they're more likely to wind up there if they killed a white person.

They also talk about another disparity: None of the blacks on death row in Maryland was convicted of killing blacks. Now let's be clear why the disparity exists. Many of Maryland's black murder victims are slain in Baltimore by other blacks, and city prosecutors seldom, if ever, seek capital punishment. The "racial disparity" is, in fact, a geographical one that proves there may be something to the adage that "geography is fate."

That adage was driven home to me this year, when my cousin Nathaniel Gulliver was killed in January in a recovery house just south of the 28th Street bridge. I don't think anybody in my family has any illusions that his killer will get the death penalty. Not in this town. Heck, I'd just like to see the guy go to trial. The case has already been postponed once.

My cousin Nate was held hostage along with several others while the gunman tried to extort money from another resident of the recovery house, according to police. The money was to pay a drug debt. Nate left, cleaned out his bank account and gave the money to the gunman, who still shot the guy who owed him the money and several others, including my cousin.

When the suspect goes to trial in January (assuming there are no further postponements), I'm not expecting prosecutors to seek the death penalty. They don't seek it in most of the other murder cases in Baltimore, either. That has nothing to do with racism or "racial disparities." It has plenty to do with the nature of what kind of crime lands killers on death row: felony murder.

And what do the data for felony murder suggest? Federal statistics on nationwide homicide trends from 1976 to 2002 reveal that over 59 percent of those arrested for felony murder are black. Fifty-five percent of victims of felony murder are white.

In homicides where the perpetrator doesn't know his victim, the black assailant-white victim murder happens four times more often than the white-on-black murder. A death row comprising of a majority of black convicts who were sentenced for killing white victims might be more a reflection of that data than of any "racial disparity."

The "racial disparity" on Maryland's death row is no more a disparity than the number of black guys any football fan can see on the defensive units of many NFL teams. Get a lot of black guys interested in playing pro football, and you'll have a league dominated by black players. Get too many black guys committing felony murder, and you'll have death rows dominated by black convicts. But in the liberal mind-set of death penalty opponents, one is a racial disparity while the other is the way things are.

That's because liberals need victims. But not just any victims. Murder victims like a Jane Tyson or a Nathaniel Gulliver won't do for the criminal-loving wing of liberal America. They need victims who aren't really victims in any normal meaning of the word.

That's why liberals have recently gone on a crusade to restore felons' voting rights, proclaiming disenfranchised felons as America's new crop of victims. The fact that most felons got in their situation all on their own and that most states provide a means for them to have their voting rights restored by acting on their own doesn't deter liberals, who are in constant need of non-victims to shove down the victimhood maw.

Jane Tyson was fatally shot 14 years ago through no fault of her own. Wesley Baker is on death row today for the actions of Wesley Baker. "Racial disparity" had nothing to do with it.

Don't expect any of those clamoring for Baker's clemency to utter that truth.

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