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November 13, 2008

Maryland commission urges abolition of state's death penalty

As detailed in this new article in the Baltimore Sun, a commission appointed by Maryland's governor has now "recommended abolishing capital punishment in Maryland, prompting hope among death penalty opponents that the General Assembly could end the 30-year practice when it convenes in January."  Here is more from the article:

The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted 13-7 to make the recommendation and also found that the death penalty carries the "real possibility" of executing innocents and may be biased against blacks.  The commission's final report provides additional ammunition to O'Malley and other death penalty opponents in their uphill fight to stop state executions.

Previous repeal efforts have narrowly failed despite high-profile campaigns by O'Malley, a Catholic and ardent opponent of capital punishment.   An O'Malley spokesman said tonight that the Democratic governor looks forward to reading the final report, which is due next month.  Tonight's decision "now places a burden on those who would like to defend the system," said Sen. Jamie Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat and panel member who voted with the majority.

Death penalty proponents took comfort in what they characterized as a close vote, considering that some members of the commission were appointed by an ardent anti-death penalty governor. "Tonight was a night to really figure out where people actually stood," said Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, a panel member who plans to write the minority's opinion to be included in the final commission report. "The vote is a testament to how close this issue is in the state of Maryland."

Despite the panel's recommendation and O'Malley's view, the final decision rests with the General Assembly, where a key Senate panel has repeatedly voted down a death penalty repeal, preventing it from reaching the chamber's floor....

The 23-member commission voted down a proposed amendment to keep the death penalty for people who kill correctional officers or police officers. The panel voiced unanimous or strong support for seven of eight findings it was charged with exploring.  Among these:

  • Racial and geographic disparities exist in how the death penalty is applied
  • Death penalty cases are more costly than non-death penalty cases and take a harder toll on the survivors of murder victims
  • There is no persuasive evidence that risk of execution is a deterrent to crime, and the unavailability of DNA evidence in all cases does not eliminate the "real possibility" of wrongly executing an innocent person

November 13, 2008 at 01:20 AM | Permalink

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