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March 4, 2009

Death penalty debate gets personal

As they were considering a full repeal of Maryland's death penalty, senators received the following email from Del. Craig Rice, a 36-year-old first-termer, sitting in the other side of the State House. It may have been the first time many senators had heard of or from Rice, but I wouldn't be surprised if his story affected some decisions:

From: Rice, Craig Delegate (Laptop)
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2009 2:52 PM
To: Senate Laptops; Senate of Maryland
Subject: My personal story...that I think you should know regarding the death penalty.
I know you many of you do not know this, but back in 1993, my aunt, Mildred Horn, her quadriplegic son, Trevor (my cousin) and his full-time nurse Janice Saunders were all murdered by a man named James Perry. They were killed 5 houses down from the house I lived in and my mother was the person who discovered their bodies.

Mr. Perry, a Detroit man, was convicted and sentenced to death in Maryland for the murders of my Aunt, Trevor, and his nurse, Janice Saunders. Lawrence Horn, the divorced husband of my aunt, was sentenced to 3 life sentences for contracting the killings in an effort to inherit the proceeds from a medical malpractice settlement stemming from Trevor's condition.

I beg of you for my family and the numerous victims across the state, please do not repeal the death penalty.

My family, namely my mother and now deceased Aunt Gloria fought a tremendous battle to strike up the courage and nerve to testify in the initial hearings that lasted months and the subsequent appeals to get and preserve a death penalty verdict.

My mother still has nightmares about James Perry and Lawrence Horn and will continue to do so until they are no longer on this Earth. Just 2 months ago, my mother called me at 3am in the morning because her alarm had gone off and told me that Perry was trying to get her. She and my family will never be the same.

Senators, my personal story may be unique in the legislature, but is not unique in our State. For me as a victim, and not as a Delegate, I ask you, PLEASE DO NOT REPEAL THE DEATH PENALTY.

District 15
Maryland House of Delegates
House Office Building, Room 223
6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 841-3090, (301) 858-3090
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3090 (toll free)
fax: (410) 841-3112, (301) 858-3112

Posted by David Nitkin at 2:47 PM | | Comments (10)


I hope that gave everyone pause.

One's perspective changes when you are personally involved in something that previously was just an academic discussion.

I commend Del. Rice for his courage to send that note to his colleagues in the State Senate.

Good for Delegate Rice. The comments against repeal made no sense. Racial disparity? The last two guys to be executed for horrible crimes... were white!

My brother was murdered for insurance money. People that murder for nothing more than money deserve to be put to death.

Yes, it does give me pause.

It is a reminder of what can happen when legal issues are decided on the basis of personal involvement.

Del. Rice's story is a tragic one, and he is right that there are many other families in Maryland who have suffered similar tragedies. But the painful and difficult truth is that such personal experience renders a person less credible in making public policy because there can be no objectivity in his/her outlook.

Sadly, Del. Rice's mother will not stop having her nightmares once Perry and Horn are "no longer on this earth." Their deaths won't alter the pain. This is exactly what so many families have learned in the wake of death penalty executions. They find that, instead of peace and closure, there is only emptiness and the disappointment that no relief was gained.

They are permanently cheated of a closure that could have come much more quickly with a sentence of life imprisonment, no parole.

Del. Rice's voice is poignant, and his family's pain is not to be doubted. But, precisely because they enamate from a deep personal bias, those words should not contribute to public policy decisions.

I believe we should keep the death penalty.
I simply do not understand what type of mind allows the murdering of innocent babies while sparing the life of convicted killers. you can't have it both ways, and i would be interested in the justification of that stance.

Killing the murderer does not bring back the murdered.

Yep, all those nasty families of murder victims are SO biased.

That is a terribly tragic story, and I feel for Del. Rice and his family.
However, that also highlights one of the main problems with capital cases - the emotional attachment we have to the facts and the victims. How can a defendant in a capital case get a fair trial when the jury hears the horrific details?

Don't tell the families of those murdered how they are going to feel about the murderers or the victims once the murderers are put to death. I think they know what will make them feel better, but that's not even the point...

A society that values life should have the ability to extract the highest penalty for ending life willingly. The death penalty is actually the pro-life position believe it or not.

Murder is wrong. The state has no business deciding who to kill. Killing the killers has never made us more safe.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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