How serious must a crime be in Baltimore to warrant the death penalty, asks the Baltimore Sun. Chief prosecutor Patricia Jessamy has sought the ultimate punishment only twice in her 11 years in office, saying that cases must be reserved for those individuals who commit the most heinous crimes.” Jessamy did not ask for the death penalty in recent cases in which a man admitted raping and asphyxiating three older women and another in which two men were convicted of killing three children, 8, 9 and 10, whose throats had been slashed so deeply that they were almost decapitated.
Defense attorney Margaret Mead said that in the prosecutor’s office, “It has almost been an unwritten policy not to go for the death penalty.” Interviews with Jessamy and others suggest that her rare use of the death penalty is a result of a considering resources, politics, policy, and specific circumstances of the cases. Since 1978, city prosecutors have sought to use it only about 18 times in the thousands of homicide cases that have come across their desks. Jessamy says an informal analysis showed that about 10 percent to 15 percent of 200 or so city homicide cases that come across prosecutors’ desks each year qualify for the death penalty under state law.