Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday he plans to order the release of two more convicted murderers who contend they killed their husbands because of repeated physical abuse.
Despite criticism of his decision in February to release eight battered women from prison, Schaefer said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors that he has no qualms about ordering that parole be granted to Gail Hawkins, of Baltimore, and Carolyn Sue Wallace, of Baltimore County.
"I have no doubt I am absolutely right on the 'battered spouse syndrome,' " in which women are driven to violence by abusive mates, Schaefer said. "I believe it."
Unlike the swift releases granted in February, when Schaefer commuted the first eight women's sentences, Hawkins and Wallace will not leave prison until after parole officials act on their cases this summer.
Even though he did not release Hawkins in February, Schaefer emotionally recounted her case then, saying that her mate had used her as a "punching bag" in showing off in front of friends.
Meanwhile, Joyce Danna, of Baltimore County, convicted of fatally shooting her police officer husband, will not be released, Schaefer said, because she recently was resentenced. The case of Marie Lake, a Baltimore woman convicted of murder, is being reviewed. Officials have recommended that her sentence be reduced from life to 30 years.
The cases of all 12 women were presented to Schaefer by domestic violence activists, who used the momentum created by the governor's review to lobby successfully for legislation to make it easier for women who attack their mates to introduce evidence of spouse abuse during criminal trials.
Told of Schaefer's decision, those activists said they will continue working to free Lake, Danna and as many as eight more allegedly battered women whose cases are being researched.
Andrew Levy, an attorney for Danna, said he hoped to meet with Schaefer and convince him that a judge's recent decision to resentence her to life in prison should not prevent her release.
During the 90-minute lunch interview, Schaefer also criticized Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder's handling of Chesapeake Bay issues, suggesting that Wilder has not given a regional cleanup compact the attention it deserves. "It has not been a priority of his," Schaefer said dryly.
A Wilder spokesman countered that "the efforts on the Chesapeake Bay have continued full force under this administration."
Schaefer also chided Wilder and Virginia Sen. Charles S. Robb, two fellow Democrats, for their high-profile feud, saying that it hurts the image of all public officials.
"Don't you think that's terrible? I really do . . . . They don't see what they're doing to each other," Schaefer said.
In the interview, Schaefer also:Blamed "developers and those who own great landholdings" for apparently scuttling proposed growth controls for the remainder of his term as governor. After defeating Schaefer's proposed controls during this year's legislative session, lawmakers said they were going to study the issue for at least two years, and action is considered unlikely close to the 1994 election.
The governor said he intends to use his power to concentrate growth in already developed areas. Said he may leave it to the General Assembly to propose taxes to bail the state out of its projected deficit. The governor's $800 million tax increase package was snubbed by lawmakers earlier this year. Plans to order AIDS tests for medical workers under contract to the state whose jobs bring them into even casual physical contact with prisoners. The Maryland attorney general has said the state cannot require testing of contract employees unless their jobs involve "invasive" medical procedures.
"We'll call this an invasive procedure," said the governor, laying his hands on the arms of the two people sitting next to him. Thousands of prisoners and former prisoners are being tested for the AIDS virus because of the recent disclosure that two prison dentists died of the disease.
A half-year into his second term as governor, Schaefer used the recent decline in the state's financial status to review his performance and pine for what he says were far more enjoyable days as mayor of Baltimore.
With the state facing nearly a billion dollars in projected budget shortfalls, Schaefer acknowledged it will be tough to make progress on issues such as housing the homeless and caring for the mentally ill.
But, he said, his accomplishments in economic development, education and other areas will leave the state in better shape than it was under his predecessor, Harry Hughes.
On a pessimistic note, Schaefer indicated that he believes Virginia is likely to win the tug of war for the corporate headquarters of defense contractor General Dynamics Corp.