The Maryland General Assembly’s Death Penalty Folly: An IIlustrative Application of Reckless Legislation

Patrick Albert Byers Jr. has been convicted by a federal jury in the contract killing of Carl Stanley Lackl, an innocent and brave witness to Byers’ running with a gun from a killing.

After Byers’ arrest and about a week before his trial, Mr. Lackl was prepared to testify against him, but was executed by killers hired by Byers.

Byers had offered $2500 for the contract killing.

In a previous blog (March 29, 2009) I wrote about the ill-considered, highly irresponsible death penalty changes wreaked on this state by the intelligent-but-judgment-challenged members of Maryland’s General Assembly.

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The changes, in lieu of eliminating the death penalty – an even more irresponsible goal – will limit use of the death penalty, as described in THE BALTIMORE SUN, to cases wherein evidence includes “DNA or biological evidence, a videotape of the crime or a video-recorded confession by the killer.”

Thus, the death penalty will not be eliminated, but will be eviscerated.

One of the primary concerns I articulated in my RED MARYLAND blog regarding the evidentiary changes required for seeking the death penalty (as well, of course, the eventual goal of eliminating of the death penalty) was that “incarcerated accused felons’ contracting with third parties to kill witnesses and convicts’ ordering killings or threats by cohorts will be punishment-free.”

When the next accused or convicted murderer in Maryland subsequently successfully orders another killing, you can thank the 2009 Maryland General Assembly and Governor. Murderers may not be as bright as those legislators who have paved the way for consequence-free murders, but the felons know how to avoid providing evidence that would make them eligible for the death penalty. The changes in the evidence required to seek the death penalty constitute a contract between would-be murderers and the state of Maryland.

Nice arrangement, and innocent, brave witnesses be damned.

There was no “DNA or biological evidence, a videotape of the crime or a video-recorded confession by the killer” in the murder of Mr. Lackl.

Unlike in Maryland courts, the death penalty may be invoked in this terrible case. The attorney for Byers is aware that the only issue for the convicted murderer is whether he is now sentenced to die, saying “It’s life or death.” If it’s not death, the killing of Mr. Lackl is virtually punishment-free.

The Maryland General Assembly will not suffer for their appallingly bad judgment. They don’t even publicly address the criticisms of their actions.

Professor Vatz is a professor at Towson University
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