09 February 2006 :Vernon Evans, 56, who has been on death row in the eastern state of Maryland for more than 20 years, was granted a stay of execution on the week he was scheduled to die.
The court said it would hear arguments in May on each of four claims advanced by Evans's attorneys, including their contention that the death penalty as it is applied in Maryland is biased by race and geography. "We're just ecstatic that the court is going to give us our day," his attorney Julie Dietrich said.
Evans, sentenced to die for the murder of two hotel employees in 1983, has vehemently protested his innocence.
Defense attorneys and Evans, who has drawn attention to his case by answering questions about it on a blog, maintain that he was not the gunman, although they have not said who was. On the blog, which is maintained by a death penalty opponent who forwards questions to Evans and posts his replies, Evans wrote in April that he did not get a fair trial and that an attorney told him before his resentencing that his only shot at getting off death row was to show remorse.
In addition to the contention that the death penalty in Maryland is biased, the Court of Appeals said it would consider the following claims:
· That mitigating evidence about Evans's troubled childhood, including a suicide attempt at age 10, was not known to his previous attorneys or presented at trial.
· That the state's death penalty protocols were adopted without public input, in violation of state law.
· That prosecutors improperly used their challenges to dismiss eight of the 10 potential jurors who were black.