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Slain Smithsburg officer's relatives lobby for death penalty

Family members meet with governor prior to State of the State address

Family members meet with governor prior to State of the State address

January 24, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - While rounding up support for the death penalty on Wednesday, two relatives of slain Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson ran into Gov. Martin O'Malley outside the State House and chatted with him.

The chance encounter led to O'Malley mentioning them at the start of his State of the State address.

They might not have found a like mind in O'Malley, but Kimmy Armstrong and Carole Ingram - Nicholson's aunt and great aunt - said they thanked the governor for coming to Nicholson's funeral.

O'Malley publicly has stated his opposition to capital punishment, and last year testified in favor of a bill to repeal Maryland's death penalty.

The bill failed in a Senate committee, where Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, cast a key vote of opposition.

Nicholson was shot and killed while on duty Dec. 19. Douglas Wayne Pryor has been charged with murdering both Nicholson and Alison Munson, Pryor's ex-girlfriend.

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Don Murphy, a lobbyist and former delegate, helped lead Armstrong and Ingram around Wednesday and suggested who they should see.

The rest was up to them. Murphy said he told the women, "You don't need a lobbyist. You need to share your story."

Opening a guidebook of the legislature, Armstrong pointed to listings of the dozen or so lawmakers with whom the women had talked.

Among them were a few who represent Washington County - Mooney, Sen. Donald F. Munson, Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. and Del. Christopher B. Shank.

Armstrong said they also chatted briefly with Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a strong backer of a repeal effort.

Armstrong said their lobbying message was that the death penalty should be retained in Maryland "not for vengeance - more for an alternative, for justice."

The women said they were glad to thank O'Malley for being at Nicholson's funeral and the speech he gave.

"What he said was very nice, very sincere," Ingram said.

Recently, Nicholson's stepfather, Paul Highbarger, said the governor's presence at the funeral was awkward, and the family did not welcome him because of his stance against the death penalty.

Armstrong said other relatives disagreed. They might favor the death penalty, but they were grateful O'Malley came to the funeral.

In his speech, O'Malley planned to acknowledge the family of Maryland Transportation Authority Police Corporal Courtney Brooks, who was killed on duty on New Year's Eve. Relatives of his attended the State of the State address.

Impromptu, the governor noted the presence of Nicholson's relatives, too.

"Our hearts go out to you, and we'll never be able to repay the debt of gratitude we owe to you," O'Malley said.

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