Computers On Death Row

Activists of Pakistan People's Party shout slogans as they hold pictures of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, now exiled, during a demonstration in Lahore, May 5, 2007. President Pervez Musharraf banned Bhutto on Friday from returning to Pakistan for upcoming elections. Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images

Maryland's death row inmates are turning into computer junkies.

The 13 inmates all have access to computers, which some use up to five hours a day to research the law in hopes of saving their own lives. The computers have no Internet connections, but the inmates have legal reference software at their disposal.

"This is all we do is sit here and pick apart our cases," said Steven H. Oken, a condemned murderer. "This is our life."

State officials say the computer programs are no different than the law books that death row inmates in Maryland have been free to study since 1773.

"We're supposed to make sure the inmate has an adequate opportunity to defend himself," said Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

But families of the inmates' victims were horrified to learn about the death row computers.

"It's a miscarriage of justice to be giving a bunch of computers to horrible killers on death row so they can nitpick about ways to delay the punishment they deserve," said Betty Romano, whose 20-year-old daughter, Dawn Marie Garvin, was killed by Oken in November 1987.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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