High Drama At Maryland's Death Penalty Commission
A commission examining capital punishment in Maryland produced some high drama yesterday, as an exonerated death row inmate tangled with the state's attorney from the jurisdiction that sentenced him to death.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Schellenberger, a member of the commission, told his colleagues that he believes in Maryland there is virually no chance today of prosecutors falsely convicting and executing an innocent person.
Furthermore, Schellenberger said he was not troubled by the disparity among counties in how often prosecutors seek the death penalty.
"I believe jurisdictional disparity is really local rule," said Schellenberger, whose office was found in a study to be 13 times more likely to seek a death sentence than prosecutors in the city of Baltimore.
His comments invited a pointed response from another commission member, Kirk Bloodsworth, who was twice convicted of the 1984 murder of a 9-year-old girl before being freed in 1993 based on DNA evidence.
"I think it's a little cavalier for you or anybody in the state to say that they couldn't make an error of that magnitude, and I think my case proves it," Bloodsworth said.
Schellenberger said he was not yet state's attorney at the time and was not directly involved in Bloodworth's case.
The commission is expected to make recommendations to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) later this year about whether to continue executions in Maryland.
The state has had a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since December 2006, when its highest court ruled that regulations for lethal injection had not been properly adopted. The administration of O'Malley, a death penalty opponent, has yet to issue new regulations.
Bills to repeal the death penalty outright have failed in recent years in the legislature, despite high-profile support from O'Malley.
October 8, 2008; 11:11 AM ET
Categories: John Wagner
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