State Digest

January 23, 2008

Scott Turow to talk about death penalty

A best-selling novelist and former prosecutor is scheduled to speak to death penalty foes and lawmakers today about how he came to oppose capital punishment after studying the issue while serving on an Illinois government panel.

Scott Turow, author of mystery suspense novels such as Presumed Innocent as well as Ultimate Punishment, a nonfiction book about the death penalty, will speak at 6 p.m. in the President's Conference Center at the Miller Senate Office Building in an event organized by the advocacy group Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.

The speech, which is free and open to the public, comes as lawmakers in Annapolis continue to debate the repeal of the death penalty.

Although key legislative leaders have said a repeal stands little chance of passing this year, CASE spokeswoman Jane Henderson said her organization will continue to fight hard for the measure.

"We are working the vote count," she said. "This will happen, but whether it will happen in 2008, we'll have to wait and see."

Bradley Olson

Cambridge

Rally planned to save building

Preservationists who have led a downtown redevelopment campaign in this Eastern Shore city are planning a noontime rally today, hoping to block the demolition of a historic building that was nearly destroyed in a seven-alarm fire last week.

Officials from the nonprofit Cambridge Main Street program say they have raised $5,000 to help cover some of the initial costs of shoring up the structure, buying time for engineers to determine whether it can be salvaged. The building, which housed two antiques stores, was severely damaged in the Jan. 14 fire.

Developer Brett Summers, who has restored several century-old properties downtown, has expressed interest in buying the damaged building.

Summers won a temporary restraining order last week, preventing the city or the owner from tearing down the damaged building, at least until a court hearing scheduled for Friday.

Chris Guy

State dessert

Lawmakers treated to sweet lobbying

Florida prides itself on its key lime pie. Massachusetts has the Boston cream pie. So what's Maryland's sweet culinary claim to fame?

Del. D. Page Elmore and his constituents on the Eastern Shore say it's the Smith Island cake. They feel so strongly about the baked good that they want the General Assembly to approve legislation declaring it the official state dessert.

The cake is typically made of eight to 10 layers of yellow cake separated by chocolate frosting, though some bakers have taken license with the recipe, substituting chocolate batter or coconut frosting. Frances Kitching, whose recipes make up the island's official cookbook, is often credited with creating the cake.

Lobbying began yesterday as proponents distributed slices of Smith Island cake made by Classic Cakes in Salisbury to the 188 state legislators. Elmore, a Republican, said that he doesn't expect much opposition to the proposal. After all, backers pointed out, the dessert would go perfectly with the state's official beverage: milk.

Laura Smitherman

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