MD Court of Appeals Grants Stay of Execution in Vernon Evans Case

February 06, 2006

Update: On February 3, 2006, Maryland’s Catholic bishops wrote Governor Robert Ehrlich, urging him to stay the execution of Vernon Evans, scheduled for the week of February 6 (press release below).

On Monday, February 6, the Maryland Court of Appeals temporarily stayed Mr. Evans’ execution and scheduled a May 2006 hearing to examine several questions related to his case.

The three Catholic bishops in Maryland, the Papal Nuncio to the United States, writing on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) today urged Governor Robert Ehrlich to stay the execution of Vernon Evans, scheduled for the week of February 6.

In their joint letter, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington; Cardinal William H. Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore; and Bishop Michael Saltarelli, Bishop of Wilmington, wrote of their concern for the victims’ families, but also called upon the governor to commute Mr. Evans death sentence and give him life in prison without parole.

They wrote, “Our Church’s teaching recognizes the right of legitimate government to resort to capital punishment, but it challenges the appropriateness of doing so in a society now capable of defending the public order and ensuring the public’s safety.”

They continued, “Our Catechism instructs us that if non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from an aggressor, then public authority should limit itself to such more humane means, because they are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good, and with the dignity of the human person. Since 1989, non-lethal means of protecting the public from a violent aggressor have been available in the form of life-without-parole sentences. Having been a member of the General Assembly committee wherein the life-without-parole statute originated, you know the sentence means what it says: Parole is never possible.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Chairman of the USCCB’s Domestic Policy Committee, wrote in a separate letter, “On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and in solidarity with the Catholic Bishops of Maryland, I am writing to urge that you exercise your power of clemency and spare the life of Mr. Vernon Evans…. As pastors who minister to both the victims of capital crimes and those who sit on death row, we strongly believe that the use of the death penalty diminishes all of us when a man or woman is killed on our behalf… For us this is not about ideology, but a fundamental respect for life. We do not believe that you can teach that killing is wrong by killing. We do not believe that you can defend life by taking life.”

The full texts of both letters are online at The letter from Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, Papal Nuncio, has not been released publicly.

Mr. Evans is on death row for the April 28, 1983 murders of David Scott Piechowicz and Susan Kennedy, who were motel clerks in Pikesville, MD.

In March 2005, the USCCB launched the National Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. Information about the campaign is online at

Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
[email protected]