"Archbishop Lori, O'Malley among parade of witnesses urging death penalty repeal," is by Timothy B. Wheeler and Michael Dresser in today's Baltimore Sun.
Sensing a real chance to abolish the death penalty in Maryland after years of trying, opponents of capital punishment brought a parade of religious, political and civil rights leaders to Annapolis Thursday to urge lawmakers to do away with the ultimate sanction.
Roman Catholic Archbishop William E. Lori, testifying before a legislative committee for the first time since taking the helm of the Archdiocese of Baltimore last year, said he had come to Annapolis to throw the church's support behind the repeal effort.
"While those who have done terrible harm to others deserve punishment," he said, the church opposes the death penalty because it considers even the lives of criminals sacred — and because of "what it does to all of us as a society."
The Washington Post reports, "Maryland governor appeals to lawmakers to end death penalty," by John Wagner.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) pressed lawmakers to abolish the death penalty at a pair of charged hearings on Thursday, invoking morality and fairness while arguing that capital punishment is at odds with “our values as a people.”
Prosecutors and others countered with sometimes graphic detail from some of the state’s most gruesome rapes and murders, saying that executions are a vital law enforcement tool.
“Are we really going to walk away from the death penalty for individuals who commit the most heinous of acts?” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger asked, recalling a murderer who taunted his victims’ families during his sentencing hearing.
The legislation, which would replace the death penalty with life in prison without the possibility of parole, is among the most high-profile issues facing the legislature during its 90-day session. With O’Malley’s backing, it has also gained momentum recently in a General Assembly that has balked at previous repeal efforts.
AP coverage is, "Gov. urges death penalty repeal," written by Michelle Janaye Nealy. It's via the via Cumberland Times-News.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday urged lawmakers to abolish the death penalty this year, with repeal efforts appearing to be on stronger ground than when he last tried in 2009.
The Democratic governor denounced capital punishment during a Senate committee hearing, calling it inaccurate, costly, racially biased and ineffective in deterring violent criminals. O’Malley, who has made the ban on capital punishment a top legislative priority this session, urged lawmakers to support a measure that makes life without the possibility of parole the state’s most severe punishment.
“The death penalty is expensive, and the overwhelming evidence tells us that it does not work,” O’Malley told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In 2011, the average murder rate in states where death is a penalty was 4.9 for every 100,000 people. In states without it, the murder rate was lower, at 4.1 per the top 100,000 people.”
"O'Malley urges House and Senate panels to repeal death penalty," by Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital Gazette.
The governor kicked off the testimony during two hearings on his legislation (Senate Bill 276 and House Bill 295). About 40 people signed up to testify Thursday for each of the hearings in the Senate Judicial Proceedings and the House Judiciary committees.
“Freedom, justice, the dignity of every individual, equal rights before the law — these are the principles that define our character,” O’Malley said. “The death penalty is inconsistent with these principles.”
O’Malley’s legislation would affect only future cases. Under it, life without parole would become the highest level of punishment.
The legislation would also require the governor to allocate $500,000 of savings from the repeal to the Maryland Victims of Crime Fund, to meet the needs of murder victims’ families.
The Frederick News-Post reports, "Local woman testifies on death penalty," By Bethany Rodgers.
Wearing a red tulip that identified her as a relative of a murder victim, New Market resident Vicki Schieber came before Maryland lawmakers Thursday to say the death penalty brings no peace to families like hers.
Her daughter, Shannon, was brutally murdered in Philadelphia in 1998. Years later, when police charged a man with the killing, Vicki Schieber and her husband decided they did not want him on death row.
Schieber testified before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee that she has taken her story to 22 states as she argues for ending capital punishment. Her experience has shown that the death penalty often delivers distress rather than solace to victims' families.
"I have seen what happens to them when they wait 10, 15, 20 years," she said.
Sitting beside Schieber was Kirk Bloodsworth, who was released from Maryland's death row after DNA exonerated him in 1993. Both urged committee members to end capital punishment in the state.
"O’Malley pleads case for Maryland death penalty repeal," is by Holly Nunn for the Gaithersburg Gazette.
Advocates for and against the bill filled the hearing room Thursday, and many were sent to an overflow room to listen to the testimony.
In 2009, the governor sponsored a similar repeal bill, but it eventually was amended to keep capital punishment but require DNA evidence, a video of the crime or a videotaped confession.
Capital cases cost about $1.9 million to prosecute, while non-capital murder cases cost the state $650,000 on average, according to state legislative analysts.
A state analysis estimated that the repeal will save about $800,000 annually.
The Gaithersburg Gazette's columnist Barry Rascovar writes, "Death penalty repeal is vexing issue."
Death. It’s one of the marquee topics of the current General Assembly session. Abolishing the death penalty is near the top of the liberal social agenda this year — the equivalent of last year’s crusade to legalize same-sex marriage. A great deal of moralizing and hand-wringing were on display in Annapolis this week, as advocates continued their determined drive to ban the state from putting any criminal to death.
Unless you base your attitude on the Old Testament’s an eye-for-an-eye directive, the death penalty is out of place in the ethereal arena of ethics and religious teachings. It is wrong to kill another. Period. It’s what every parent teaches his or her children. Religious leaders call it a mortal sin.
African-American ministers and the NAACP have joined Annapolis advocates in large numbers this year. There’s a racist overtone to the large number of blacks put to death in evangelical, Southern states that is hard to refute. Such a bandwagon is ideal for Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is in national campaign mode this session. He’s a convert to the abolish the death penalty movement, but converts often are the most ardent.
Earlier coverage from Maryland begins at the link.