Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Court Where the Death Penalty Always Takes a Holiday

Posted by Robert Farrow


by James H. Lilley

Any cold-blooded murderer hoping for a free pass for his crime should pray that his case be heard in the Howard County Circuit Court. Having a Capital Offense tried before a Judge and Jury in Howard County, Maryland is the equivalent of winning the Power Ball and Mega Millions drawings on successive nights. Certainly your odds of winning those lotteries in consecutive drawings would be greater than having a death sentence handed down in Howard County. If you don’t believe it, ask Brandon Morris. Morris executed Corrections Officer Jeffrey Wroten while effecting his escape from a Western Maryland hospital. But, today Judge Joseph Manck saw fit to spare him the death penalty he so much deserved, and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Looking back on Manck’s record as a judge, I’m surprised that he didn’t award Morris 10 millions dollars for the inconvenience caused by bringing him to trial, and set him free.

Manck offered several reasons for sparing Morris’ life and, par for the course, they were as lame as the judicial system has become. Of course, he said he wanted to spare the victim’s family from having to face years of appeals. The family countered by saying they didn’t care if they had to face endless years of appeals, Morris deserved the death sentence, and the court failed to do its job. Tracey Wroten, wife of the victim, said the decision to live through the appeals process should rest with the family, not the judge. Washington County Prosecutor, Charles Strong agreed with Tracey Wroten, and said that although the Prosecutor’s in this case did their jobs, the court failed the Wroten family. Next, Manck brought out the crying towel, and began the sad tale of Morris’ horrible life. Poor Brandon led a terrible life, being abused and left to fend for himself. So, instead of fighting back and making something of himself, he chose a life of crime and became a career criminal.

America has become a society of excuses, and Morris just followed along with the others who refuse to accept responsibility for their own lives. Today, we have excuses for everything from poor grades, to bad driving habits and rape and murder. Just point the finger at someone else, or blame society as a whole. I know men, black and white, who led terrible lives as children, and were abused and abandoned, but today they are successful businessmen. Why? Because they had the courage to fight for themselves and chose not to follow the sheep, and whine a never-ending list of excuses for their failures.

Of course, I’m sure Judge Joseph Manck would also claim that he knew nothing of Morris’ actions during his trial. Morris continually gave the finger to the victim’s family and friends, and mouthed obscenities to law enforcement officers. At one point he also gave the finger to TV cameras, hoping to give the viewing audience a show of his sentiments for the victim and the judicial system. Morris’ body language, and his punk smirk everyday said he’d gladly kill another law enforcement officer if the opportunity presented itself. By sparing his life, Manck pinned another thug badge of honor on Morris. This thug badge of honor was earned with the blood of an innocent man, and that blood now stains the hands of Judge Manck and the Howard County Circuit Court.

Brandon Morris will never walk the streets a free man again, but he should be facing a dark hole six feet under the ground. He should be sitting on death row, waiting to hear the door open, and having someone coldly tell him, “It’s time.” Brandon Morris is like so many others who butcher innocent men, women and children—a cruel, calculating killer. And, like them, he deserved to die.


Justice said...

Judge Manck made a courageous and intelligent decision. Judge Manck should be praised for having integrity. This is an honest Judge who is the kind of Judge we need in our courts.

streiff said...

If you ignore his history of coddling vicious felons, http://redmaryland.blogspot.com/2008/01/when-judge-joe-manck-resigned-his.html , sure. Otherwise, not so much.

D. C. Russell said...

I hope those of you who live in the Howard circuit will remember Judge Manck's pro-criminal record the next time he appears on the ballot. We need to stop re-electing bad judges,

Greg Kline said...


He is retired sitting by assignment. He served as a circuit court judge in Anne Arundel County for many years.

He will not appear on any ballot.

Anonymous said...

I see you call yourself justice. Justice like yours is why Baltimore and other cities are more dangerous then war zones.

bruce.godfrey said...

I can understand why some would maintain a categorical opposition to the death penalty - on the grounds that it is per se wrong or unacceptable. But unless one is a death penalty absolutist, it is difficult to imagine what this prisoner could have done to make himself more eligible for the death penalty.

Manck by law had to consider all factors and weigh all of them; the statute specifies them. Had there been the slightest evidence of misconduct by the officer, such that this killing were imperfect self-defense, I would have been sympathetic to life imprisonment here. But this defendant essentially lay in wait, striking a guard dead and laughing his rear-end off at his trial, replete with "I'm number one" one-finger salutes of a sort.

How Judge Manck reached his final judgment is beyond me. Sparing the victim's family the appeals process is NOT part of the statute listing the factors for consideration in a death penalty case, unless I am mistaken.

It is very rare that I agree with Robert Farrow but I do here.

Anonymous said...

I was raised in Howard County and have served in the military for the past 25 years. I'm ashamed to read fellow Marylanders screaming for the death penalty. Everyone knows it does nothing to deter crime and only teaches children that violence is a legitimate solution to problems. This type of thinking is what, IMO, leads people to believe that torture is OK. Maryland should take the lead of NJ and ban the death penalty.

streiff said...

Like most things that "everyone knows" there is little here that is correct.

For every study you want to trot out showing that the death penalty does not deter murder (not crime), I can bring out an equally rigorous study showing it does.

What we do know with mathematical certainty is that it measurably discourages recidivism. What we also know is that now we have in our prison system an unrepentant, cold blooded killer who can prey on staff and inmates with only the fear of receiving yet another sentence of life without parole.

As much as you may not like to believe it, violence does solve a lot of problems. And a threat of violence prevents a lot of problems. And killing murderers does not teach kids that violence is okay, it teaches them what happens when they direct violence at others.

Mark Newgent said...

Violence in a righteous cause stopped the Holocaust. Big W for violence.

American said...

Sure Mark, and violence kept the slaves in place during this Country's legalization of slavery. So, what's your point? Your expressed joy for violence is really a sad commentary on your life.

By the way, to get back to the point of the comment, I think Judge Manck made a wise decision and is a good Judge.

robert said...

and I am sure you would feel the same way if he killed your wife our girlfriend. Why do you not have more concern for innocents instead of killers and criminals....

streiff said...

It seems to have escaped your notice that it was violence that also ended legalized slavery. Really. I understand they've written books about it.

American said...

Ah, yes, perhaps we should have a Support Violence Day each year. Violence is such a wonderful thing that we should really rejoice in it and hope that it spreads, right?

Must be quite bleak and depressing to be you.

robert said...


Do you realize how stupid your last post sounded?