Both Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and lawyers for death-row inmate Jody Lee Miles argued to an appeals court Monday that Miles should no longer be subject to capital punishment.
Miles is seeking to have his sentence changed in the wake of the General Assembly’s repeal of the death penalty last year. The legislature’s action did not directly affect the sentences of the four remaining men on Maryland’s death row, but Gansler (D) argued that the state is “no longer legally or factually able to carry out” executions.
Gansler, who leaves office next month, said the state would like to convert Miles’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole, which he said is “in effect a death sentence.” Miles is seeking a new sentence of life with the possibility of parole.
“He’s the best of the best of inmates,” one of his lawyers, Brian Saccenti, told a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.
Miles was convicted in the 1997 robbery and murder of a musical-theater director in Wicomico County.
Maryland has not had regulations in place since late 2006 on how to execute prisoners through lethal injections. A court found the protocols had not been properly adopted, and the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) — a death penalty opponent — never implemented new rules.
With the death penalty no longer on the books, the state cannot develop new regulations on carrying out executions, even under a new governor, Gansler said. Keeping Miles on death row, Gansler argued, therefore violates his due-process rights.
Gansler announced the state’s position at a news conference last month. Technically, the stance applies only to Miles, but Gansler said it opens the door to similar legal motions by the state’s other death-row inmates.
It is also possible O’Malley could commute the sentences of all or some of the four death-row inmates before Jan. 21, when he leaves office and Larry Hogan (R) is sworn in.
O’Malley has started reaching out to relatives of the victims of the four inmates, stirring speculation that he might commute their sentences in the twilight of his tenure.