City / County Digest


March 13, 2007

City Council unanimously backs repeal of death penalty

Baltimore's City Council weighed in on one of the most contentious issues facing lawmakers in Annapolis this legislative session by voting unanimously yesterday to support a proposed repeal of the state's death penalty.

The nonbinding resolution has no effect on the law, but supporters say it shows the General Assembly that Baltimore officials are united in supporting repeal. Gov. Martin O'Malley, the city's mayor from December 1999 until January of this year, also supports repealing the death penalty.

"This is a resolution not to be taken lightly," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, lead sponsor of the resolution.

Debate over the death penalty has been revived this year after a December Court of Appeals ruling stated that lethal injection procedures should be reviewed by the legislature. The decision effectively instituted a moratorium on executions until the legislature acts.

The measure was introduced and approved by the City Council last night, bypassing the usual hearing process. The resolution is a statement of the City Council only. Mayor Sheila Dixon is not required to sign the measure.

"When you do get the death penalty, you can spend 25 years on death row and, at the taxpayers' expense, spend millions of dollars on the appeals process," said City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector."

Five convicted murderers have been executed in Maryland since 1978.

John Fritze

Anne Arundel: Severn River Bridge

Seven-vehicle crash backs up U.S. 50

A seven-vehicle crash yesterday on the Severn River Bridge in Annapolis sent five people to the hospital, spilled hundreds of gallons of fuel and tied up traffic on U.S. 50, officials said.

Maryland State Police charged an unidentified man with driving under the influence and driving while impaired by alcohol. Police said he was to blame for the crash in the eastbound lanes at 1:18 p.m.

Five people were taken to nearby Anne Arundel Medical Center with minor injuries, said Lt. Frank Fennell of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. No further information was available.

The crash caused about 300 gallons of fuel -- mostly diesel from a tractor-trailer --to spill onto the bridge, the scaffolding below and into the river. The Coast Guard and Maryland Department of the Environment oversaw the cleanup.

All eastbound and westbound lanes were closed for about two hours, causing miles-long traffic backups.


Space heater ignited papers in fatal fire

A fire at an Annapolis home that killed a retired Naval Academy professor and his wife was caused by combustible items that were placed too close to a space heater, the Annapolis Fire Department said yesterday.

Investigators also found that the home, owned by Reuben E. Alley Jr. and his wife, Helene, both 88, did not have working smoke detectors or sprinklers.

Firefighters responding to the fire at 11 p.m. Thursday found the body of the professor emeritus in his home in the 200 block of Halsey Road in the Admiral Heights neighborhood. Alley, who taught electrical engineering, retired in 1993 but had maintained close ties with the academy.

Helene Alley suffered burns over 75 percent of her body and died the next day at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Fire investigators said there were several portable electric heaters in the first-floor living room where the fire started and that a pile of nearby newspapers and bedding had ignited.

Baltimore: East side

Police investigating fatal accident

City police are investigating the death Sunday night of a 19-year-old woman who was struck by a sport utility vehicle while crossing a street a few blocks from her East Baltimore home.

The victim, Bertrina Thornton, ran into the 1600 block of N. Wolfe St. between two parked cars and was struck by a southbound 2004 Mercury Mountaineer driven by a 43-year-old East Baltimore man, said Agent Donny Moses, a police spokesman.

Thornton, of the 1600 block of N. Gay St., suffered multiple injuries and died about 30 minutes later at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Richard Irwin


Construction to cause delays on MLK Blvd.

Baltimore transportation officials are warning of traffic delays along a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to accommodate the installation of a new BGE conduit system. Starting Tuesday at 9 a.m., the right lane of westbound Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be closed for about a month. Officials recommend that motorists seek other routes -- particularly during the morning and evening rush hours -- to avoid delays.

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