WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the death sentence appeal of a Capitol Heights man in the 1995 murders of an elderly Prince George’s County couple.
Heath William Burch was given two death sentences for premeditated and felony murder in the killings of Robert Davis, 72, and his wife Cleo, 78.
The Maryland Court of Appeals earlier this year dropped one of the death sentences, stating that by Maryland law, two death sentences were impermissible.
But lawyers for Burch contended both death sentences should have been overturned and he should be re-sentenced.
Public defenders Mark Colvin and John Kopolow argued it was not clear to the jury that it was supposed to determine a sentence for each murder because the “verdict sheet” it used to prepare its determination was written in the singular and called for a single sentence.
Allowing the jury to make a sentence determination without knowing it should consider both murders separately violated Burch’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection under the law, the defense argued.
“If the jury had made a separate sentencing determination for each murder, the jury may well have decided that two sentences of life or life without parole were sufficient punishment,” the defense contended in its petition to the Supreme Court.
State prosecutors argued the sentence should stand because each murder was a separate crime and the death penalty could be imposed in each instance.
They contended jurors did know they were to consider both murders because they delivered separate verdicts for each and had to consider each individually as part of the sentencing process.
Also, the defense did not object to the verdict sheet’s language before it was given to the jury, which was the appropriate time to address the issue, prosecutors said.
Burch admitted entering the Davis’ Capitol Heights home and killing them on March 19, 1995, according to court papers. He also stole guns, money and the Davis’ 1989 Chevrolet Blazer, which he intended to sell to obtain drug money. He was high on cocaine at the time of the attack, according to court papers.
The couple was found by Franklin Weaver, a family friend, after the attack. Mrs. Davis, who weighed only 98 pounds, was still alive and suffering from blunt force injuries, including a 13 broken ribs. She was rushed to the hospital and died the next day from her injuries.
Her husband was dead when Weaver found him. Weaver said it looked like someone had thrown “a whole bucket of blood on him,” according to court documents. Davis had been stabbed 11 times with a pair of scissors.