That's the title of an editorial in today's New York Times.
On Thursday, Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland signed a law making life without parole the state’s maximum sentence, repealing the death penalty after more than 300 years. Maryland is the sixth state in six years, and the 18th in the country, to abolish capital punishment.
States have been rejecting capital punishment for good and powerful reasons. The death penalty is expensive to pursue, unnecessary as a means of retribution and has no benefit in deterring violent crime. Moreover, states have sentenced to death people who were proved innocent. And the penalty has been imposed by both the federal and state governments in arbitrary, capricious and discriminatory manners — in a word, unconstitutionally.
But, in too many states, support for capital punishment continues to overwhelm good sense. The Florida Legislature this week passed a bill that requires the governor to sign a death warrant within 30 days of a review of a capital conviction by the State Supreme Court, and the state to execute the defendant within 180 days of the warrant. This rush-to-execute bill irresponsibly ignores the fact that since 1973, when the state reinstituted the death penalty, one death row inmate has been exonerated for every three executed. .
Meanwhile, Arkansas announced plans to use phenobarbital in executions, even though that barbiturate has not been used for a lethal injection in the United States and its efficacy has yet to be demonstrated. And the Georgia Legislature passed a bill making secret much of the information involved in the state’s lethal injections, which would stymie legal challenges. Over all, however, a consensus is building that the death penalty should go, a trend that should be encouraged. Execution is an indefensible, archaic tool of vengeance.
Related posts are in the editorial category index.