In 10 of the past 12 General Assembly sessions, bills to repeal the death penalty in Maryland have failed to reach the floor of either chamber. In all likelihood, another effort will be made in 2013.
Whether such a measure will get further this time around is uncertain. Gov. Martin O’Malley, a strong death penalty opponent, is expected to decide in the next few weeks whether to make a serious push for repeal in Annapolis. Soon after taking office in 2007, he made the case against the death penalty, which the state reinstituted in 1978.
Some would argue that Maryland, which is among 33 capital punishment states, took adequate safeguards to prevent “misuse” of the death penalty when it tightened requirements for its application in 2009. Since then, at least one of three types of evidence is needed to apply the ultimate punishment: DNA or other biological data, a videotape that ties a suspect to the crime or a videotaped confession.
Never mind the fact that no one has been executed in the state since 2005, there are some compelling reasons to repeal the death penalty altogether.
"The death penalty revisited," is Nick Berry's OpEd published in the Capital, the Annapolis newspaper. He's vice chairman of the Annapolis Democratic Central Committee.
It is uncertain whether Gov. Martin O’Malley will again sponsor a death-penalty repeal bill. His decision is expected in the coming weeks.
O’Malley, shortly after taking office in 2007, called capital punishment “inherently unjust,” saying it fails to deter crime and takes resources that could be used to prevent crime. He sponsored repeal for three legislative sessions, the last coming in 2009, when it finally made it out of the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee. Although it failed on the Senate floor, it was amended to tighten the rules of evidence under which a sentence of death can be imposed. They are: DNA or biological proof, a videotaped confession or a crime videotape.
I was originally for the death penalty — pathological killers don’t deserve to live, I thought — something, probably a pending execution of someone mentally disabled, caused me to explore the issue less superficially. This led to a reversal. Capital punishment, with the U.S. the only Western country to impose it, is a bad practice.
A few years ago I got into a discussion on the matter with a close friend, a former Marine and tea party booster. (Yes, liberals can have friends on the other side. Unlike talking only to liberals, reinforcing but sterile, debating with conservatives is more lively, challenging, and, dare I say, more educational.) I came to see his point of view and he mine. Soon after, he brought up the subject and remarked that he had changed his mind. (You knew this was coming, right?)
He found, as I had, that the costs of judicial proceedings for capital punishment surprisingly exceed the cost of keeping a prisoner for life. Death row inmates cost far more to incarcerate than regular prisoners and lengthy judicial reviews can and often do cost millions. And O’Malley is right. There is scant evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect. In addition, public opinion is shifting, reflecting the fact that executions in the 34 states with the death penalty are less than half (40) of what they were last year (86).
Earlier coverage from Maryland begins at the link.