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November 14, 2008

As goes Maryland, so goes the nation on capital punishment?

The stories surrounding Maryland's policy debates over the death penalty have been dynamics and interesting for quite sometime.  But now that a commission appointed by Maryland's governor has formally recommended abolishing capital punishment, any and everyone interesting in death penalty law and policy ought to be keeping a very close eye on what goes on in this state.  Here are the latest specifics from this Baltimore Sun article:

Armed with a recommendation from a state commission to abolish Maryland's death penalty, opponents who have long sought to end the practice are hoping to finally put the matter to rest by pressuring key lawmakers to switch their votes....

Death penalty opponents plan to be active in the districts of lawmakers who might be swayed. They are likely to enlist the likes of Sister Helen Prejean, whose story of counseling a death-row inmate became the film Dead Man Walking, and Baltimore Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien. Cardinal William H. Keeler, who previously held that post, has personally reached out to Catholic lawmakers on the issue.

"We're going to make it as difficult as a possible for members to vote against the death penalty repeal," said Richard J. Dowling, a lobbyist for the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We're not going to pull any punches. We're going to pull out all the stops."

It's unclear what kind of impact the commission's final report, due next month, will have on the debate. The Maryland commission is basing its recommendation in part on racial and jurisdictional disparities in the application of capital punishment -- findings contained in previous reports.

One reason death penalty abolitionists are wise to "pull out all the stops" in Maryland is because national legislators and activists in and around DC will not be able avoid watching (and learning) from what happens in Maryland.  And, unlike in Vegas, what happens in Maryland on this issue likely won't stay in Maryland.  If Maryland does abolish the death penalty legislatively, capital punishment abolitionists likely will be emboldened to take their anti-death penalty fight nationally.  But, if Maryland is unable to follow New Jersey's lead here, I think it will be a real significant blow to the anti-death penalty movement.

November 14, 2008 at 09:35 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Isn't Texas the leading state in capital punishment? Keep me updated on how it goes.

Posted by: Maryland Movers | Jan 28, 2009 2:17:57 PM

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