EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 51/24/94
22 April 1994
Further information on EXTRA 17/94 (AMR 51/17/94, 25 March 1994) - Death Penalty
USA (Maryland):John Frederick THANOS
John Frederick Thanos is now scheduled to be executed during the week beginning
16 May 1994. If the execution is carried out, it will be the first in Maryland
for 32 years.
John Thanos had been scheduled for execution during the week beginning 25 April.
However on 25 March, Governor Schaefer signed legislation which changed the
method of execution in Maryland to lethal injection, meaning that prisoners
currently on death row have the choice of the gas chamber or lethal injection.
This in turn meant that a new warrant had to be issued for John Thanos' execution
because the previous warrant stipulated the method of execution as death by
John Thanos has chosen to abandon his legal appeals and has asked to be executed.
An appeal filed on his behalf by his mother and sister challenging Thanos'
competency to waive his appeals was dismissed on 15 April without consideration
of its merits. This decision will be appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals.
This appeal cites the conclusions of five mental health experts that Thanos
is incompetent to give up his right to appeal, (not four as stated in EXTRA
17/94); four of these also concluded that he was incompetent during the time
of his trials.
John Thanos, white, was first sentenced to death in March 1992 for the murder
of Gregory Taylor in August 1990; he received two more death sentences in
June 1992 for the murders of Billy Winebrenner and Melody Pistorio in September
1990. Thanos was sentenced to death on both occasions by a judge after he
waived his right to be tried by a jury. Thanos was scheduled for execution
in November 1993, but won a reprieve when the Maryland Supreme Court failed
to rule on an appeal before his death warrant expired at midnight on 7 November
(see EXTRA 86/93 AMR 51/90/93, 8 October, and follow-up AMR 51/96/93, 9
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty unconditionally as a violation
of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or
degrading punishment, as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. Amnesty International is concerned that the execution of John Frederick
Thanos may be contrary to the Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights
of those facing the death penalty, adopted by the United Nations Economic and
Social Council (ECOSOC) in May 1989 (Resolution 1989/64), which recommends
eliminating the death penalty for persons suffering from mental retardation
or extremely limited mental competence, whether at the stage of sentence or
FURTHER RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express and airmail
letters in English or your own language, or call by telephone:
- acknowledging the seriousness of the crimes for which John Thanos was sentenced
to death and expressing sympathy for the families of the victims of violent
- urging Governor Schaefer not to take the retrograde step of resuming executions
in Maryland after 32 years;