Text of Letter from Maryland Bishops Urging Governor to Commute Death Sentence of Vernon Evans

February 03, 2006

The three Catholic bishops of Maryland sent the following letter to Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich on February 3, 2006:

The Honorable Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
State House
Annapolis, Maryland 21401

Dear Governor Ehrlich:

Little more than two months ago, we appealed to you to spare the life of Mr. Wesley Baker, then facing execution for the 1991 murder of Mrs. Jane Tyson. The Tyson family was on our minds, too, and in our prayers, for we know the terrible pain they experienced, and continue to experience, as a result of the loss of a loved one to violence. We asked you then to extend to Mr. Baker the clemency that is only yours to grant under our State’s Constitution. As believers, trusting that God’s justice is seasoned by divine mercy, we asked you to be merciful. Your gentle response and your acknowledgment of our position in conscience were deeply appreciated.

Although we were saddened that our appeal on behalf of Mr. Baker was not heeded, we are not resigned, for we know from our interchanges with you that you are open to the words and example of Jesus Christ, who taught us that the heavenly reward of mercy shall be theirs who show mercy (Matthew, Chapter 5, verse 7). And so, no less hopeful than we were in making our earlier entreaty, we come to you again with another appeal for mercy, this time in the case of Mr. Vernon Evans, whose scheduled execution can be avoided only by the exercise of your constitutional prerogative.

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. 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.

We are not unmindful of the suffering visited upon the families of Susan Kennedy and Scott Piechowicz, whose murders led to Mr. Evans’ conviction. They are in our prayers, especially now, as the publicity surrounding the scheduled execution compels them to experience once again the utter sadness they must have first felt on that day in 1983 when they learned of their losses. Had the life-without-parole sentence been available at the time of the Evans’ trial, their re-living of that terrible time might have been avoided. That sentence is available now and we ask you to apply it as a substitute for execution.

Please know that you remain in our prayers, as well, in this matter and in all you and your administration endeavor to do for Maryland and its people.

Sincerely yours,

William Cardinal Keeler
Archbishop of Baltimore

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick
Archbishop of Washington

The Most Reverend Michael Saltarelli
Bishop of Wilmington

Susan Gibbs
Director of Communications
[email protected]