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November 29, 2005

Wesley Baker gets a defense

I've written about Wesley Baker three times before. He's a murderer on death row in Maryland.

But now he has a defender, the president-elect of the NAACP of Maryland. Writing in Sunday's Post, Elbridge James blames things on the sad facts of Baker's birth, upbringing, and childhood. And, while insisting he does not "excuse" the murder, for which we can all be grateful, James blames the murder on society. I am not making that up.

Nothing can excuse Tyson's murder, and I am not arguing that Baker should be released from prison. He clearly was present during the crime, and he has expressed remorse for his participation.

But Baker is an example of how society fails our youth, particularly our black youth. Maryland's child welfare system was unable or unwilling to protect Baker from abuse and neglect when he was under its care. It was complicit in allowing his young life to be thrown away long before the justice system ruled that Baker should die for his crime.
James says that capital punishment is biased in Maryland because different prosecutors seek the penalty to different degrees. But his real argument is that capital punishment is a "bankrupt policy."

To me, Baker's execution instead will underscore Maryland's failure to protect its vulnerable children -- most often black and poor children -- and to stop the cycle of violence that poverty and addiction perpetuate.

The death penalty is a bankrupt policy. It wastes the resources that Maryland desperately needs for education, health care and child care to ensure that other children do not end up like Wesley Baker.
Personally, I'd rather spend money to ensure that other people don't end up like Jane Tyson. Dead.

UPDATE: Fellow Marylander David Wissing, at the Hedgehog Report, notes that Cardinal Keeler has gotten into the act, too.