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DATELINE: ANNAPOLIS, Md., Aug. 18
Maryland's High Court Rules Teenagers May Be Executed
Maryland's highest court has declared that some teen-agers convicted
of murder are not too young to be sentenced to death for
''A particularly heinous act can take the juvenile outside the protective
umbrella'' of the juvenile justice system, the Maryland
Court of Appeals ruled Friday, 6 to 1. The case involves James Trimble, who was found guilty of murdering a woman when he
was 17 years old.
The teen-ager was convicted of raping the victim, hitting her over the head with a baseball bat and slitting her throat.
Judge Harry A. Cole, in the majority opinion, said: ''Trimble's crime
was not a youthful prank; it was a cold brutal act of
repeated sadistic violence. In these circumstances, the death penalty is not unjustified solely because the perpetrator of these acts
was four months shy of his 18th birthday.''
The teen-ager, who had an intelligence quotient of 64, pleaded not guilty
by reason of insanity. A person with an intelligence
quotient of 68 to 83 is considered ''borderline retarded,'' according to a medical definition.
Attorneys for Mr. Trimble said they would ask the United States Supreme
Court to hear the case. A decision on that appeal is
not expected for several months, the attorneys said.
Only One Case Involved
In his opinion, Judge Cole said the ruling related to only one case
and should not be applied to all juveniles. ''Nor do we hold
that any particular chronological age serves as a bright line under which the death penalty may not be imposed,'' Judge Cole said.
The court noted that the Maryland death penalty law did not single out
teen-agers for exemption. The opinion said, moreover,
that of the 39 states with capital punishment, 29 allow the execution of teen-agers.
''Contemporary society has not rejected capital punishment of juveniles,
but has chosen, through its elected representatives, to
allow it in certain circumstances,'' the court said.
Testimony in the case indicated that chances of rehabilitating Mr. Trimble ''were bleak,'' the court said.
In upholding the death penalty, the court noted that the Supreme Court
had not addressed the issue of the constitutionality of
imposing the death penalty on a juvenile. But the Maryland court said, ''We discern from other Supreme Court cases the
principles necessary to resolve this issue.''
Copyright 1984 The New York Times Company