Hours after a Baltimore judge cleared the way yesterday for prosecutors to seek the death penalty for the man accused of killing of Franciscan Sister MaryAnn Glinka, the Archdiocese of Baltimore issued a statement opposing the state's pursuit of a death sentence.
"The question is not whether the state may use the death penalty, but whether it should. We believe it would be inappropriate to use the death penalty," the archdiocese said in a written statement.
"In this case or in any case of murder, we believe it would be appropriate for the state to consider applying the punishment of life in prison without opportunity for parole," the statement said.
During a hearing in Circuit Court, Judge John C. Themelis denied a series of motions, raised by lawyers for defendant Melvin Jones, challenging the constitutionality of Maryland's death penalty law.
Defense attorney Phillip M. Sutley had submitted memorandums and affidavits in support of his argument that the method of execution in Maryland, death by lethal gas, should be outlawed as cruel and unusual punishment.
But Judge Themelis said the constitutionality of the state's death penalty law previously has been affirmed. In issuing his ruling, he noted that the defendant, by filing the motions, had achieved the goal of preserving his appeal rights.
The hearing had been scheduled to dispose of a variety of pretrial motions and to fine-tune plans for jury selection in the trial, tentatively scheduled to begin Oct. 29.
Mr. Jones, 34, of the 1600 block of E. 32nd St., is charged with strangling and raping Sister MaryAnn during a March 19 break-in at the motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore City in the 3700 block of Ellerslie Ave. in Northeast Baltimore.
In its statement, the archdiocese said, "The state has an obligation to pursue appropriate and necessary measures to protect its citizens. This obligation includes a recognition in principle of the state's authority to execute a person who commits the most serious of crimes. But today the church faces a society in which dramatic increases of violence have led to a dramatic disrespect for human life. We are concerned that the death penalty further advances an anti-life attitude."
Mr. Jones, who is charged with first-degree murder, rape, burglary, robbery and storehouse breaking and entering, is to be tried Dec. 8 in the Feb. 24 armed robbery of a Signet Bank branch at 36 S. Charles St.