Baltimore County Digest


November 03, 2006

Doctor testifies nurse needed for execution

Replacing a nursing assistant who starts the intravenous line used in lethal injections with a nurse anesthetist would put a more highly trained person in the position to tell whether something went wrong during an execution, an anesthesiologist said yesterday.

Dr. Mark Heath, an anesthesiologist at Columbia University who was called to testify by lawyers for death row inmate Vernon Evans, has been sharply critical of Maryland's execution team members. He contends that they don't have the medical background to understand the process adequately.

Laura Mullally, an assistant attorney general who is defending the state's procedure, has argued that the current team is well-qualified to do a job that is, after all, not a medical procedure.

Evans' lawyers are arguing that years of drug use have damaged their client's veins so badly that he could experience excruciating pain while being executed by lethal injection. They say the pain could make the procedure illegal under the constitutional guard against cruel and unusual punishment. They are challenging the procedure in a federal trial in Baltimore, which is being presided over by U.S. District Judge Benson Legg.

The person who establishes the IV and monitors the line during Maryland executions has been the focus of intense scrutiny during the trial. She has been identified as "Contractual Team B" to protect her identity.

Legg asked Heath if a nurse anesthetist would be better suited to the job, and he replied that such a person would be highly trained to handle problems that could arise. A nurse anesthestist is a registered nurse who is specifically trained to administer anesthesia.

Heath has spoken in favor of putting people with more medical training on the execution team to avoid mistakes that he believes could cause extreme pain to the inmate.

Mullally has contended that involving people with stronger medical credentials isn't realistic, because of bans by medical associations and social pressures preventing doctors from participating in executions. Mullally said the state even lost a witness in the case because she feared her identity would be compromised.

But Heath, under cross-examination by Mullally, said there are doctors who are willing to participate. He also said that views on the subject in the medical community are starting to broaden.

Closing arguments in the case are scheduled for Nov. 15. Evans was sentenced to die for the murders of Scott Piechowicz and his sister-in-law, Susan Kennedy, in 1983. In February, Maryland's Court of Appeals stayed his execution.

The state's highest court heard arguments in four separate cases in May, including a claim that racial bias played a role in the decision by prosecutors to ask that he be executed. The court has yet to rule on those cases.

Associated Press


Suspect sought in bar shooting

Baltimore County police have asked for the public's help in identifying a suspect in the shooting of a man last month in the parking lot outside an Essex bar.

A bouncer at Coco's Bar and Grill, in the 400 block of Eastern Blvd., was breaking up a confrontation involving several people in the parking lot Oct. 7 when he and another man exchanged words, police said. The man pulled a handgun from his waistband and shot the bouncer in the leg, then ran to a light-colored car and drove off, police said. The victim was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and was treated and later released.

The suspect was described as a white man in his 20s, with short blond hair. He was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans, police said.

Anyone with information was asked to call county police at 410-307-2020, or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.


Candidate's Web site hacked

A computer hacker breached the Web site of a candidate for Baltimore County executive, distorting much of its content, according to police. Campaign staff of Republican Baltimore County executive candidate Clarence W. Bell Jr. reported this week that his Web site had been hacked, police said.

No arrests had been made, and the investigation continues, police said yesterday.

Nick Shields

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