Monday, March 6

Maryland Backs Away from Death Penalty for Sniper

Maryland State Attorney Douglas Gansler in 2002:

Maryland prosecutors say they will bring six counts of first-degree murder against the two Washington sniper suspects.

State's Attorney Douglas Gansler says they will seek the death penalty against army veteran John Allen Muhammad.

He indicated prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against his 17-year-old alleged accomplice, John Lee Malvo, but do plan to try him as an adult.

Mr Gansler said: "We don't feel the death penalty is appropriate for juveniles."

Maryland was the first state to press murder charges against the two snipers. Despite this, AND despite most of the victims being shot in Maryland, AND despite the assurance from Maryland State Attorney Gansler to push for the death penalty for John Allen Muhammad, it was decided to try the snipers in Virginia as it was seen as the state WITH the best chance of resulting in a death sentence for the two. John Allen Muhammad was sentenced to death, and his partner John Lee Malvo received life in prison due to the technicality that he was 'only' 17 when he killed all those people.

Now it is Maryland's turn to try the sniper team for the murders committed in Maryland. Mr. Gansler proves that it was a correct move to try them in VA first by not pushing for the death penalty:

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against convicted sniper John Allen Muhammad when he goes on trial in May, the Montgomery County state's attorney said Thursday.

Douglas Gansler filed notice last month with the county's Circuit Court that he would seek life without possibility of parole if Muhammad is convicted of the six murders in the county in 2002.

What happened? Why the change?

Idiotic excuse Number One:

In an interview, Gansler said "underlying the entire decision was the fact that Muhammad has received a death sentence in Virginia."

If this is true, then why try them at all. As it stands, Virginia Courts have already made sure that both of them will die in jail. Maryland is now delaying the process with this sideshow of theirs.

Idiotic excuse Number Two:

"We also had to look at the law and facts and given that in Maryland, seeking of the death penalty almost always sets up a system of false promises to victim's families," Gansler said, pointing out that only five men have been executed in Maryland since 1978.

He discussed what he called 'legal hurdles' in Maryland, where the law requires prosecutors "to show beyond reasonable doubt the person was the triggerman," and show that two or more people were killed in a single incident.

"Given space and time and distance, the multiple murders would not satisfy legal definition of single incident," Gansler said.

His current excuses would have been equally valid in 2002, especially the last comment concerning the "single incident." I would think that it is the State Attorney that would inform the state that it's death penalty laws are useless and need to be changed. I wonder how well he even knew his state's death penalty laws back in 2002 since he didn't see these issues as problems back on '02.

Not for anything but ANYBODY can be smart enough to argue that any multiple murder incident is actually multiple single murders. As for meeting the definition of a single incident, he could have made a convincing case based on the following facts:

- They made one attack a day.
- Their first day's attack resulted in multiple deaths in a couple of hours.
- There was only one ransom demand. (Not one for each state.)

Sounds pretty convincing to me.

Idiotic excuse Number Three:

The state's attorney's office also considered the potential cost to Maryland taxpayers of seeking the death penalty for Muhammad, saying it would have created "an opportunity for public defenders in the case to spend a great deal of money and time on experts in the death penalty phase."

Money! Of course, this has to do with money. Thanks for telling the world that Maryland is not interested in spending too much money on fighting crime. This brings me back to a previous comment, why try them at all? How much money will this case waste? What will trying them change? For this, we have the final excuse:

Idiotic excuse Number Four:

We also had a legal obligation to ensure that in the event the conviction in Virginia is overturned that the people responsible (for the killings) are not set free onto streets of Maryland.

So this trial might be important. If the death penalty conviction is overturned in Virginia, he no longer faces a death penalty sentence. That's just great.

I know that many people have problems with the death penalty. I think the main problems are that it is not used enough. The 1,000th execution milestone was just pasted a short while back. It took about 30 years to execute 1,000 murderers. In 2004 there were 16,137 murders. 62% of those murders resulted in arrests. So if the death penalty was being used for the crime, there should be thousands of death penalty sentences carried out each year. Instead, we have people being sentenced to life in prison, or less. So when people claim that the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime, I wonder how they know, because it is not being used except as an exception. I suspect that if your chances of facing the death penalty were certain, that would be something for criminals to think about.

Just remember, there are 6 billion apples on this planet. Too many people are too concerned about the rotten apples. Rotten apples should be thrown away. Do what you can to keep them fresh, but if they insist on turning rotten, then there should be no guilt in throwing away garbage.

Can we please reform our death penalty laws and turn it into a useful tool against crime.

Sniper suspects face six murder charges - TCH Archives (26 Oct 2002)
Montgomery County won't seek death penalty for convicted sniper - Herald-Mail Online (6 March 2006)
Murder - FBI 2004
Uniform Crime Reports - FBI

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