Nitkin: Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening put a halt to executions in Maryland, saying he wanted to see the results of a study by a University of Maryland professor of whether the death penalty was fairly applied in Maryland, and the role that race and geography played in applying the death penalty.
The study author, Ray Paternoster, recently wrote about his study in an opinion piece in The Sun.
He wrote, in part: "We looked at the four key moments in each case in which the prosecutor, judge or jury could decide whether to impose a death sentence -- from the first filing of charges to final sentencing. We studied the details of each case, more than 100 factors in all. These factors captured the brutality of the crimes -- the aggravating or mitigating circumstances that juries ultimately consider at sentencing time. Then we used statistics to account for and control all of these many differences among the cases.
"After taking all these other factors into account, we found evidence that race mattered. We found even stronger evidence that the particular jurisdiction where the crime occurred mattered.
"Yet, as the [Wesley] Baker execution approached, some newspapers and advocates described the study as finding just the opposite -- that the Maryland death penalty process was race-neutral or that race of the offender made no difference. Some other advocates on the other side of the debate claimed that the study found the process to be racist. All of those descriptions are incorrect.
"We found that both the race of the victim and, to a lesser extent, the race of the offender, make a difference: Those who killed a white victim in Maryland were between two and three times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed a non-white.
"Black offenders who killed white victims were nearly 2 ½ times more likely to be sentenced to death than white offenders who killed white victims and nearly 3 ½ times more likely to be sentenced to death than black offenders who killed black victims."
I asked both the Duncan and O'Malley campaigns your question, and here are their responses.
Jody Couser, a press secretary for Duncan, said the Montgomery County executive would reimpose a moratorium until the issues raised in the Paternoster study were addressed.
Duncan "supports the death penalty in certain cases," Couser said, but believes "the study has raised real and genuine concerns about its application."
The O'Malley campaign would not directly answer whether the mayor would reimpose a moratorium.
Campaign manager Jonathan Epstein gave me this statement: "Martin believes that further investigation into the fairness of Maryland's death penalty is warranted and looks forward to the conclusions of Lt. Gov. Steele's long-anticipated report on this issue. No person is above the law, and while the mayor remains personally opposed to the death penalty he will uphold its fair and legal application as governor."
Andrew, Gaithersburg: In the past two weeks, and in the next two weeks, Doug Duncan has been campagning in his own county. That is one entire month dedicated to a part of Maryland that should already be heavily supportive of him. Is this poor campaign management? Or is it due to O'Malley's rising support in Montgomery County?
Nitkin: Montgomery County is the largest in Maryland, and it is heavily Democratic, so it makes sense for any Democratic candidate to spend a lot of time there.
That said, the road to victory in 2006 for Democrats in the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate primary lies in Prince George's County, which has more Democratic voters than anyplace else (as of last March -- a date that happens to be in front of me -- there were 318,897 registered Democrats in Prince George's and 278,375 in Montgomery). So time not spent in Prince George's is time wasted, in a sense.
O'Malley's campaign would like to paint the picture that they've got Duncan on the ropes, and are forcing him to shore up support in his home territory.
But Duncan's staff said that the events he is now doing in Montgomery are a direct result of endorsements he received from local elected officials. When those officials asked, "What can we do to help?" Duncan said he wanted access to their volunteers and organization. The events you reference, the campaign says, are meet-and-greet sessions designed to help Duncan get volunteers.