Police say Karla Porter promised to pay Bishop $9,000 to kill her husband as part of a murder-for-hire scheme that also involved three members of her family and another man.

Karla Porter's sister, Susan Datta, and her nephew, Seamus Coyle, who police say introduced Bishop to his aunt, were both found guilty of first-degree murder in 2010 for their involvement in the scheme. Her brother, Calvin Mowers, and another man, Matthew Brown, both pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the case in 2010.

Karla Porter's capital murder trial likely will be held next year.

All are expected to appear as witnesses for the prosecution in Bishop's trial. Mowers' and Brown's appearances as witnesses were stipulations of their plea agreements, McArdle said.

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Jurors selected for Bishop's trial will be told to use only information presented during the trial in deciding their verdict, but the prominence of the case is a concern, McArdle said.

In fact, Bishop's case is being tried in Harford County because the defense successfully argued that a Baltimore County jury would be swayed by "extensive, prejudicial publicity" in the case, according to court documents. The defense also argued, unsuccessfully, that jurors in Harford and Carroll counties would be similarly swayed.

"We are concerned with the publicity that is already out there," McArdle said.

Legal status and public opinion

No one has been put to death in Maryland for more than five years, the result of a "de facto moratorium" on executions after concerns from lawmakers about protocols for lethal injections, McArdle said.

One chemical used in those injections, sodium thiopental, is no longer available in the United States, an issue currently being reviewed by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said Takirra Winfield, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, in an email.

O'Malley is an opponent of the death penalty but is "committed to carrying out the law," Winfield said in the email.

Among other considerations, DPSCS officials are reviewing practices in other states that have the death penalty, Winfield said. Until the issue is settled, the unofficial moratorium will continue.

Nevertheless, prosecutors in Maryland have continued to seek the death penalty in cases where it is legally applicable, just as they are for Karla Porter and Bishop, said Baltimore County Assistant State's Attorney John Cox, the prosecutor in Bishop's case.

"The death penalty is still a valid, on-the-books punishment that is available in the state of Maryland, so when appropriate, this office will seek it," Cox said, noting such sentencing decisions are made in Baltimore County by State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

A survey of Marylanders from the beginning of this year by Annapolis-based Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies found that 56 percent say they support the death penalty and 26 percent say they oppose it.

The same survey found that 60 percent of respondents considered a life sentence without the possibility of parole a suitable alternative.

Public opinion will be relevant for McArdle and Cox as they begin selecting jurors in Bishop's case.

"Our aim, as it should be for everybody, is to have people who can be fair and partial to both sides, and not be affected by information they have from outside the courtroom," Cox said.