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A Halt to Execution Gaining in States

November 08, 2002|Eric Slater | Times Staff Writer

CHICAGO — In May, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening became the second governor to impose a moratorium on the death penalty, and other states are considering such action.

Glendening's announcement, which stayed the execution of Wesley Eugene Baker pending the outcome of a death penalty study by the University of Maryland, came two years after Illinois Gov. George Ryan announced the first such halt to executions.

Ryan, a Republican, imposed the moratorium after 13 death row inmates had been exonerated since Illinois reinstated the death penalty in 1977. The state has executed 12 people, fewer than it has freed.

Glendening, a Democrat, made his decision based not on death row exonerations but after revelations that nine of his state's 13 condemned inmates were from one county, Baltimore, and that nine of the 13 were black. Glendening is awaiting the results of the study, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Thirty-eight states have a death penalty, and the Legislatures in many of them -- including Oregon, Indiana, North Carolina, Arizona and Nebraska -- have struggled for years over the ultimate punishment.

In 1999, the Nebraska Legislature passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions by a vote of 27 to 21, but Republican Gov. Mike Johanns vetoed the bill.

The revolution in DNA technology in the late 1980s has been one of the key tools opponents have used in seeking to overturn the death penalty in the United States, as has pressure from many other Western nations that have abolished executions.

The Sept. 11 attacks, observers say, and the recent sniper slayings in the Washington, D.C., area, have aided death penalty proponents in arguing their case.

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