In Maryland, killers can rest easy. No matter how heinous their crimes, they won’t face execution. In 2013, Maryland legislators abolished the death penalty for future murderers. So Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley decided that the abolition should extend to those already on death row. Just before leaving office a few days ago, he commuted the death sentences of Heath William Burch, Jody Lee Miles, Vernon Evans, and Anthony Grandison.
The following excerpt from court documents describe the crimes of Burch: “In the early morning hours of March 19, 1995, Burch burglarized the home of Robert and Cleo Davis in Capitol Heights, Maryland, intending to steal property that could be sold to support his cocaine habit. [NOTE: Robert Davis was a World War II hero and winner of the Purple Heart.] When confronted by the Davises, an elderly couple in their 70’s, Burch savagely attacked them. Following the assaults, Burch stole their guns, their money, and Mr. Davis’s truck. A family friend discovered the Davises the next day, and by that time Mr. Davis had died. Mrs. Davis, who was alive when found on a couch with blood splattered over her, was hospitalized and died eight days after being attacked by Burch. The medical examiner determined that Mrs. Davis died of blunt force injuries and resulting complications.
“An autopsy performed on Mr. Davis revealed that he had died from thirty-three wounds, of which eleven were stab wounds from the blade of a pair of scissors. There was overwhelming evidence in Burch’s state court trial linking him to the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Davis. Indeed, Burch confessed to the Maryland authorities that he had entered the Davis home and killed its occupants. A boot found in Burch’s home matched a bloody footprint in the Davises home, and traces of the victims’ blood were found on clothing in Burch’s home. Additionally, Burch’s brother testified that on March 19, 1995, the day of the attacks, Burch came to the brother’s home with blood on his neck and hands and acknowledged that he had killed two people.”
Sentenced to death, Burch won the lottery. He gets to live out the rest of his life and die of old age while the good people of Maryland support him.
Mary Francis Moore, daughter of Cleo and step-daughter of Robert, reacted to the news: “I’m very devastated,” she said. “I’m not disappointed. I’m devastated.”
She and other family members pleaded with O’Malley not to commute the sentences. “I knew this [the death penalty] was hanging over him, and that he didn’t have much of a life up in Cumberland,” Moore said. “Now, I believe they’ll bring him down to another prison and he’ll have a life, a social life with other inmates, which I don’t appreciate.”
While some will applaud the governor for his actions, it seems cruel to ignore the family’s wishes—especially since a jury thought the murders were brutal enough to warrant execution.
Burch’s victims lie in their graves, still awaiting justice that will never come.