When a study found glaring disparities in the imposition of the death penalty in Maryland, opponents of capital punishment hoped it would spark reform or the abolition of executions, says the Baltimore Sun. As Wesley Eugene Baker faces a scheduled execution that could occur as soon as today, death penalty opponents are incensed that so little has been done to address what they consider disturbing patterns of race and geography in the way the ultimate sanction is imposed.
Baker is a black man convicted of killing a white woman — circumstances that the study found most likely to lead to a death sentence in Maryland. He would be the first black man to be put to death in the state since the 2003 state-funded study. “Absolutely nothing — and I mean nothing — has been done, and it’s kind of outrageous,” said Jane Henderson of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions. “All three branches of government in Maryland are refusing to deal with this.” Three top prosecutors have hired an expert statistician to review the study by University of Maryland professor Raymond Paternoster. The $225,000 study found “no evidence that the race of the defendant matters in the processing of capital cases in the state,” but that statistically, black defendants who killed whites were the most likely to be charged with capital murder and sentenced to death. Gary W. Christopher, a federal public defender and a Baker attorney, said the state’s highest court’s refusal to hear his client’s Paternoster claims is “one of the greatest disappointments of my [25-year] professional career.”