Monday, December 12, 2005

December 4, 2005

Last Meal: Baker had a final meal of breaded fish, pasta marinara, green beans, orange fruit punch, bread and milk.

The skinny: Baker was executed for the shooting of a woman to death at a Baltimore County mall while two of her grandchildren looked on.

More skinny: The victim was 49 years old, married with three children and six grandchildren. She worked as a teacher's aide at a local elementary school. She went to the Westview Mall near Baltimore with her two grandchildren. As they were entering their car in the parking lot to leave, the woman was approached by Baker, who put a gun to her head and fired once, killing her.

Baker stole her purse which police said contained $10 in cash, then jumped into a blue truck which fled the scene. A witness followed the Blazer out of the lot and recorded the license plate number, then returned to the mall, informing police. Police spotted the vehicle and gave chase. The Blazer stopped abruptly and a passenger, later identified by the witness as Baker, fled on foot. The driver, Gregory Lawrence, was arrested. Baker was arrested a short time later, found to have blood on his shoe, sock, and leg.

Subsequent testing revealed that the blood was Tyson's. Officers also found Tyson's purse and wallet in the path of Baker's flight. The firearm used in the shooting was recovered from the Blazer, and fingerprints from Baker's right hand were found on the driver's side of Tyson's vehicle. Lawrence was also convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Leading up to: All day long, Baker had visited with friends and family. He had spoken to others by telephone. According to his lawyers, he talked about movies and memories. They said he again expressed remorse for the shooting that left a 49-year-old grandmother dying on a mall parking lot in front of her grandchildren. He joked that he still needed to lose 40 pounds.

Last words and such: At 9:07 p.m., the lights went out. A prison official cleared his throat. A shadow appeared at the window behind the curtains. At 9:08 p.m., they opened. There were no last words. No one asked Baker whether he wished to say something. The Rev. Charles Canterna -- a priest known as "Father Chuck" who ministers to parishioners at St. Vincent DePaul Roman Catholic Church and to inmates at the Supermax prison, including those on death row -- stood beside Baker. He touched the condemned man's forehead and his chest, nodding his head in prayer. He stepped back near the back wall.

Factoids: Baker was the...

58th murderer executed in U.S. in 2005
1002nd murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
1st murderer executed in Maryland in 2005
5th murderer executed in Maryland since 1976

About 50 death penalty opponents protested the execution outside under light snow. Minutes before 9 p.m. they began to sing "Amazing Grace," and at the appointed execution time of 9 p.m., they broke into "This Little Light of Mine all around death row, I'm going to let it shine." (Ed. Note: We asked for a better song and we got it. Though we can't see how you can get all those words in the first line).

At one point, inmates inside the facility started a chant of their own -- "Don't kill him! Don't kill him!" -- that was audible on the street below. The silhouettes of their fists pumping in the air could be seen through a window in the building's upper reaches.

Baker's execution was carried out despite the efforts of death penalty foes, who said the state has yet to fully review a 2003 study of capital punishment in Maryland that concluded race and geography play roles in how death sentences are meted out in the state. The case of Baker, a black man convicted of killing a white victim in Baltimore County, fit many of the purported disparities revealed by the study.