Victim Of A Faulty System

Don't Let Maryland Kill Eugene Colvin-El

By: Brandy Baker and Mike Stark

For more information about getting involved in the fight against Maryland's death penalty, contact the Campaign at 301-587-1469 or cedp_dc@hotmail.com

Eugene Colvin-El could become the next Maryland death row prisoner executed if the state gets its way. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing Eugene's case, and if they reject his request for a new trial, the state could execute him before the end of the year.

Eugene's case is unique among Maryland death penalty cases: No one else has ever been sent to death row in Maryland solely on circumstantial evidence -- without a confession from a defendant or codefendant, without evidence connecting the defendant to the actual killing and without the testimony of an eyewitness to the killing.

Eugene fell victim to an all-too-familiar pattern of injustice in Maryland death penalty convictions. Like many of the poor people on death row, Eugene received inadequate representation at trial. When he protested this fact, he was denied the constitutional right to represent himself. To make things worse, the prosecution illegally withheld evidence that might have exonerated him.

Eugene's case falls into another pattern as well: He is a poor, Black man convicted of killing a white woman in suburban Baltimore County. Though the majority of murders in Maryland involve Black victims, the vast majority of death penalty cases -- especially out of Baltimore County -- involve Blacks accused of killing whites.

The entire case against Eugene rests on only two pieces of circumstantial evidence, and both have been called into question. The first was a fingerprint found on broken glass from a rear door outside the house where the murder occurred. No other physical evidence was found linking Eugene to the crime -- no other fingerprints, footprints, blood, hair, clothing or anything else. Prosecutors claimed that Eugene entered the house alone through this rear door. But police reports show that a large metal storage cabinet blocked this door from being opened more than four inches.

Prosecutors also claimed that Eugene had pawned a relatively worthless pocket watch and Timex wristwatch stolen from the house. But none of the truly valuable stolen jewelry was ever connected to Eugene. And two days after the murder, police investigators found pieces of jewelry from the robbery lying in the driveway outside the home, where anybody -- including Eugene -- could have picked them up.

During the trial, the prosecution illegally withheld information that would have affected the verdict. This evidence included a fingerprint from a paper inside the victim's purse that was not Eugene's.

Meanwhile, Eugene's lawyer didn't bother presenting jurors with evidence that could have won an acquittal, including witnesses' accounts of two young men riding bicycles in the neighborhood on both the day of and the day after the murder.

During Eugene's appeals, four different courts ruled that he did not receive adequate representation and lifted the death sentence. One judge went further, acknowledging that Eugene's constitutional rights had been violated. But the death sentence was later reinstated.

Despite all these facts, the state of Maryland is preparing to kill Eugene Colvin-El. We can't sit passively by and hope that the courts and politicians will do the right thing. People need to organize to send a clear message to Maryland's politicians: We will not tolerate state murder.