“We didn’t want him put to death,” Schieber told Sen. John C. Astle (D-Anne Arundel) at a recent meeting in his office. “This wasn’t the way we were going to find peace and closure.”
Schieber has made a similar pitch dozens of times over the past decade in Annapolis, as part of a cadre of activists pushing unsuccessfully for repeal of the state’s death penalty. On Thursday, she will be back once more, offering testimony to a pair of legislative panels.
Only this time, there’s reason to believe the result could be different.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has made repeal of the death penalty one of his top agenda items for the 90-day session, and a bare majority in the Senate — the more resistant chamber in recent years — have said that they plan to vote for the bill.
Those who have voiced support include Astle and Sen. Ronald N. Young (D-Frederick), both of whom Schieber visited as part of a lobbying effort before Thursday’s hearings. Both cited Schieber’s story as a factor in their thinking.
Although prospects for the bill appear strong, nothing in Annapolis is guaranteed, and potential pitfalls remain.
“I’m both hopeful and scared,” Schieber said in an interview this week when asked about what could happen in the coming weeks, as lawmakers start voting on the legislation.
Schieber has been effective over the years because she is not what lawmakers might expect from the family member of a murder victim, said Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), who chairs the Senate committee that has jurisdiction over the legislation.
“When people meet Vicki, they meet a woman where the worst possible thing happened — she lost a child,” said Jane Henderson, the executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions. “While Vicki would never say she speaks for all victims’ families, she makes a compelling case that goes to the heart of the matter.”
On a recent Wednesday, Schieber, a Catholic, arrived at Astle’s Annapolis office accompanied by Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore and a lobbyist for the Catholic Church.
Astle was one of a handful of senators who had not announced a position at the time.
Schieber, now a grandmother who lives in Frederick County, told him about her daughter, a graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and Duke University.
For a few months in high school, Shannon dated C. William Frick, who is now a Maryland delegate.
“She was this beautiful, vivacious woman who would work on physics problems for four or five hours until she got it right,” Frick (D-Montgomery) recalled. “She was a special person and unquestionably headed for great things.”