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Officer's killer loses in appeal of sentence


Flint Gregory Hunt, sentenced to die for the 1985 murder of a Baltimore police officer, moved a step closer to the gas chamber yesterday when a federal appeals court upheld his death sentence.

But Hunt's lawyer said he will file a series of motions for a new trial that will delay an execution until next year.

"Certainly he won't be executed in 1995 if I have any input into the process," said Thomas C. Morrow, the lawyer.

In a 21-page opinion, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., rejected arguments that Hunt was inadequately represented at trial, that the state death penalty law is unconstitutional and that execution by lethal gas is cruel and unusual punishment.

"Lethal gas currently may not be the most humane method of execution -- assuming that there could be a humane method of execution -- but the existence and adoption of more humane methods does not automatically render a contested method cruel and unusual," the court said.

Inmates under a death sentence in Maryland when the state's lethal-injection law went into effect last year were allowed to choose the manner of their execution.

Hunt was the only one of 13 inmates in that group to choose death by gas, said a spokesman for the Maryland attorney general's office.

The appellate court ruling came a year to the day after U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin in Baltimore denied a similar appeal. It moves Hunt further along in the appeal process than any of Maryland's death row inmates.

Hunt, who turned 36 yesterday, was found guilty of first-degree murder in 1986 and sentenced to die for fatally shooting Officer Vincent J. Adolfo during a struggle in an East Baltimore alley in November 1985.

His first death sentence was overturned by the Maryland Court of Appeals in 1988, but he was resentenced to death in a lower state court two years later. The state Court of Appeals upheld that sentence in 1990, and the Supreme Court rejected his first appeal in 1991.

Mr. Morrow said he still has several avenues of appeal, including a return to Baltimore Circuit Court, where Hunt originally was convicted.

John Frederick Thanos, who chose to forgo the appeals process, became the first inmate to be executed in Maryland in 33 years when he was given a lethal injection in May 1994.

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