Limit death penalty appeals to three years

March 01, 2011

No doubt that making sure only the guilty are executed must be done 100 percent of the time. And as The Sun's editorial ("Double Victims," Feb. 27) opines by quoting Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger saying, "we're as close to infallible as you can be in Maryland now," we should have confidence that the death penalty is meeting the 100 percent standard. Mr. Shellenberger is referring to the revised law passed just two years ago that only allows a death penalty when there is physical evidence, such as DNA, or a videotaped confession. But here is the problem. The revised law only gives benefits to the accused and does nothing to decrease the mental anguish of the victims' survivors awaiting justice to these murderers. This is another example of more concern by our legislators with the convicted than the victims and their survivors.

The Sun reports that nationwide, the average length of time between sentencing and execution is 14 years, and that the wait is even longer here. Those years must be horrendous for the victims' families to cope with. I cannot imagine as a relative of a murder victim going through this turmoil for 14 years, can you? And most of these outrageous delays are caused by the convicted and others filing endless appeals alleging anything to keep the convicted alive.

Now with the higher evidence standard for the death penalty conviction, here is an idea to reduce the time the victim's relatives are in limbo. The Maryland legislature should pass a law that minimizes the number of appeals, implement expedited judicial review of all death penalty appeals and establish a maximum deadline (three years is good) for the execution to take place.

The issue at hand is not removing the death penalty because of its enforcement complications but, for the sake of the victim's survivors, making the execution quicker if it meets all judicial review approval.

Ron Wirsing , Havre de Grace

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