"Report fuels death debate," is the report in Saturday's Baltimore Sun by Julie Bykowicz.
A debate over the hot-button social issue could quickly become one of the most heated fights in Annapolis, with Gov. Martin O'Malley pledging that ending the death penalty is among his top priorities.
The capital punishment panel, headed by former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, cited the possibility of executing an innocent person, huge financial costs, and racial and regional biases as compelling reasons to eliminate the punishment.
"There are so many faults, so many flaws within the system that we could not imagine ... ways in which to cure it," Civiletti said yesterday.
The issue of capital punishment has long divided the legislature, and repeal efforts have failed the past two years. A bill died last year on a tie vote in a Senate committee.
But Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Baltimore Democrat and commission member, said he believes both the House and Senate could reach a consensus next year.
"I believe the overwhelming weight of the evidence in the study will have bearing on my colleagues," Rosenberg said. "And Chairman Civiletti will be an extraordinary advocate for the failures of the death penalty, the impossibility of correcting it and therefore the necessity of repealing it."
"Panel recommends repeal of death penalty," is Steve's Lash's report in the Maryland Daily Record.
The commission issued its report and recommendation after holding public hearings in which witnesses debunked popularly accepted “myths” in support of the death penalty, said Civiletti, who was attorney general under President Jimmy Carter and is now a partner at Venable LLP in Baltimore.
Contrary to popular belief, keeping a convicted murderer in prison for life is not more expensive than executing him; capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to homicide; and the use of DNA evidence does not remove the risk that an innocent man will be executed, he said.
The cost of prosecuting a case that results in the death penalty is $3 million, including $1.3 million in prison costs and $1.7 million in adjudication expenses, according to an Urban Institute study issued in March and cited in the commission’s report. By contrast, the cost of a capital-eligible case resulting in a life sentence without parole is $1.1 million, including $870,000 in imprisonment costs and $250,000 in adjudication expenses, the institute found.
Forensic evidence, such as DNA, is not always accurate and can lead to erroneous convictions, the report also stated.
Forensic labs “have a difficult time assuring that accurate findings are made,” the report added. “Scientific evidence is easily contaminated at the scene or in the laboratory, and thereafter skewed (intentionally or unintentionally) by analysts.”
And “no persuasive evidence” exists that the threat of a death penalty deters the type of people who would brutally kill from committing their savage crimes, the report added.
Maryland has had a de facto death-penalty moratorium since December 2006, when the Court of Appeals invalidated the state’s execution protocols because they had not been adopted in compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act. The moratorium will stand unless the governor adopts new protocols following the stringent APA requirements, or the legislature amends the APA to exempt execution protocols.
The Capital of Annapolis has, "State commission recommends abolishing death penalty, by Christopher Carey.
"Death is different ... because it's irreversible," said Commission Chairman Benjamin R. Civiletti, who served as U.S. Attorney General in the Carter administration from 1979 to 1981. "It is neither swift, nor fair, nor sure."
Among its findings, the commission said that the costs associated with the death penalty are higher than the costs associated with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, and that DNA evidence does not necessarily stop an innocent person from being executed.
The Capital also has, "Report: Death penalty costly, biased," by Liam Farrell.
"The death penalty in Maryland is not uniform … It is a happenstance of color and jurisdiction," said Benjamin Civiletti, a former U.S. attorney general and the commission chairman. "Systemically, the system does not treat one proportionately. It doesn't treat similar crimes in a similar fashion."
Among the report's findings on Maryland's death penalty:
Cases involving an African-American accused of killing a white person are 2.5 times more likely to get the death penalty than cases with a Caucasian person accused of killing someone who is also white.
Capital punishment has pronounced regional disparities. Someone in Baltimore County is almost 23 times more likely to get a death sentence than someone who committed a similar crime in Baltimore City.
Capital cases cost almost three times more than non-death penalty prosecution.
Maryland's capital cases had an 80 percent reversal rate from 1995 to 2007.
"For all of these reasons - to eliminate racial and jurisdictional bias, to reduce unnecessary costs, to lessen the misery that capital cases force victims of family members to endure, to eliminate the risk that an innocent person can be convicted - the commission strongly recommends that capital punishment be abolished in Maryland," the report says.
Although the vote on abolishing the death penalty was just 13-9, the separate findings of the committee on issues such as bias had much larger margins, typically gaining almost 20 votes to less than five in opposition.