What is going on here? Election politics?
Death row inmates transferred to
Under cloak of secrecy, five condemned men are moved from
Baltimore to prison Cumberland
By Scott Calvert and Kate Smith, The Baltimore Sun
8:16 PM EDT, June 25, 2010
The five men on
The transfer to the North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland was carried out amid such secrecy that even now state prison officials won't give any details — not even which day the condemned men were moved.
"For security purposes, I'm not able to speak about that," said Mark Vernarelli, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. "I myself don't even know when it happened; they wouldn't tell me."
Death penalty foes questioned the motivation behind moving the men to a rural part of the state, a step that had been planned for years. "I think it's somewhat symbolic that they put the death penalty out of people's minds," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the
"Even though the fiction is you go to death row and get executed, the reality is that's where you spend your life in prison," said Dieter, whose group opposes capital punishment. "Death row is already a pretty isolated place to live. Then you take it out of the area where you're from, and it exacerbates the punishment."
The state's execution chamber will remain in
The move comes in an election year when capital punishment could emerge as an issue in the governor's race. Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, tried unsuccessfully to repeal
The death row relocation has been in the works since 2004. That year, Mary Ann Saar, then the public safety and corrections chief, said the state hoped to move death row inmates to
Since 2008, North Branch, which cost more than $175 million to build, has been a fully operational maximum-security prison harboring only long-term inmates. Unlike many prisons, which include various levels of security, it accepts only maximum-security prisoners. Five hundred cameras line the prison walls to deter violence or escape attempts.
Using an "inverse fortress" design, with cells ringing a command center, North Branch was the most technologically advanced maximum-security prison at the time of its construction, according to a 2005 episode of the television series "Megastructures" on the National Geographic Channel.
At North Branch, death row inmates are being housed in a separate wing and are segregated from other inmates. Meals are taken to their unit.
"It does point up how these five people are going to be given special — not preferable — treatment, tighter security," Dieter said. He noted that the 150 miles between
Vernarelli said state corrections chief Mike Stouffer spoke with
The recently vacated death row, which opened in the late 1980s, was in Supermax. Now known as the
A longtime death penalty opponent, O'Malley has said
The legislature met him part way, revising the law to require prosecutors to have DNA evidence, a video recording of the crime or a videotaped confession before filing capital murder charges. O'Malley accepted the restrictions as the best he could accomplish.
Ehrlich has said he plans to raise capital punishment as a campaign issue, noting that O'Malley has never signed an execution warrant. Both of
In June 2004, Steven Oken was put to death for the torture, rape and murder of White Marsh newlywed Dawn Marie Garvin in 1991. In December 2005, Wesley E. Baker was executed, 13 years after he was convicted of murdering a woman on a shopping trip to a
Vernon Evans, sentenced May 1984 in
Anthony Grandison, sentenced June 1984 in
John Booth-el, sentenced 1984 in
Heath Burch, sentenced April 1996 in
Jody Miles, sentenced March 1998 in
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