Marchers decry death penalty

Amnesty International calls for end to capital punishment during protest at Supermax

November 18, 2007|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,Sun reporter

About 350 Amnesty International members marched outside Baltimore's Supermax prison yesterday to call for an end to Maryland's death penalty.

Organizers and speakers at the event praised Gov. Martin O'Malley for publicly supporting efforts to repeal the state's death penalty, a move the General Assembly rejected in March.

Folabi K. Olagbaju, director of Amnesty International's Mid-Atlantic regional office, said the group will try again when the legislature meets next year and was encouraged by O'Malley's support.

"We feel we have an excellent chance," Olagbaju said.

Amnesty International members who marched with him yesterday chanted and held signs that read: "End the racist death penalty," "The death penalty is a hate crime" and "Save Vernon Evans from a legal lynching."

Vernon L. Evans Jr. was sentenced to death 15 years ago in the 1983 contract killings of two employees of a Pikesville motel.

The marchers who arrived in buses are attending Amnesty International's Mid-Atlantic regional conference this weekend at the Best Western Hotel on O'Donnell Street.

"The death penalty is premeditated first-degree murder ... carried out by the state," said attendee David Johnston of Harrisburg, Pa.

Opponents of repealing the death penalty, including Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, argue that death is an appropriate punishment for murderers and ensures that they will never harm anyone again.

In December, Maryland's highest court ordered a halt to executions, ruling that procedures for putting prisoners to death were never submitted for public review required by law. Five convicted murderers have been executed in Maryland since 1978.

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