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Governor of Maryland Orders Moratorium on Death Penalty

By Henry Weinstein
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening on Thursday declared a moratorium on executions in the state, pending completion and review of a study on whether there has been racial bias in how the death penalty has been applied there.

Glendening, a Democrat, said he expected the moratorium to last for about a year.

Maryland is now the second of the 38 states with capital punishment laws to impose a moratorium, following the lead of Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who halted executions in 2000, after 13 death row inmates had been exonerated there, including one who had ordered his last meal.

Legislation to impose a death-penalty moratorium is now pending in nine other states. In addition, 72 cities, from San Francisco to Nashville, Tenn., have passed resolutions supporting execution moratoriums.

Glendening ordered the moratorium as he granted a stay of execution to a man who was scheduled to be killed by lethal injection next week for murdering a woman at a Catonsville shopping mall in 1991.

The governor said he was granting Wesley E. Baker a stay because the state-funded study by the University of Maryland is expected to be completed in September and there’s a “critical need to be absolutely sure the process is fair and just.” Glendening added that he would “stay all other cases that come before me until the completion of the study -- an examination of 6,000 criminal cases where prosecutors could have sought the death penalty -- and its reviews by the Legislature.”

Glendening reiterated his general support for the death penalty, saying that “there are certain crimes so brutal and so vile that they call for society to impose the ultimate punishment.” However, the governor emphasized, “reasonable questions have been raised in Maryland and across the country about the application of the death penalty.”