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January 10, 2012

Head of NAACP talking up campaigns to abolish death penalty in states

As reported in this AP article, "NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said Tuesday that Maryland needs to abolish capital punishment to help lead the way in ending it in other states." Here is more from this report:

“People in this country care about fairness,” Jealous said at a news conference in Annapolis with other civil rights leaders and state lawmakers opposed to capital punishment. “They’re outraged about what happened to Troy Davis. They want to see our country join the rest of the western world and abolish the death penalty. In order to get there, Maryland has to do it.”... Some Maryland lawmakers will seek a repeal in the legislative session that begins Wednesday. They say they have a majority of support in both the House and Senate, but they say they are one vote shy on a Senate committee to move the bill to a full vote.

“We’ve abolished it in Illinois in recent years; we’ve abolished it in New Jersey in recent years; we’ve abolished it in New Mexico in recent years, and there is no reason why it has not been abolished here, except for a few politicians who have gotten in the way,” Jealous said.

Jealous said the Baltimore-based NAACP is focusing on two other states where they believe there is opportunity for repeal, Connecticut and California.  “Even in Georgia, people see an opportunity to start sort of chipping away at the death penalty in a way that we haven’t seen, because the state is still on fire” over the Davis case, Jealous said....

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a death penalty opponent, pushed hard for repeal in his first term, but the measure stalled in the state Senate.  Instead, lawmakers compromised by restricting capital punishment to murder cases with biological evidence such as DNA, videotaped evidence of a murder or a videotaped confession.  Maryland has five men on death row, and five inmates have been executed since Maryland reinstated the death penalty in 1978. Wesley Baker was the last person to be executed in Maryland, in December 2005.

I am intrigued to hear the claim that Georgia "is still on fire" in the wake of the Troy Davis execution, and I wonder what it might take to quench that fire.  More concretely, I am also intrigued to see if the NAACP is really going to devote a significant share of resources and political energies to this issue in the months ahead.  Significant and sustained NAACP involvement in state DP abolition movements might "move the needle" in some settings, perhaps especially in a state like California where a referendum will allow voters to weigh in on the death penalty directly.

January 10, 2012 at 06:13 PM | Permalink

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"I am intrigued to hear the claim that Georgia 'is still on fire' in the wake of the Troy Davis execution, and I wonder what it might take to quench that fire."

The first thing it would take is for the "fire" to exist.

Davis got a virtually unprecedented SCOTUS order for the district court to hold a full evidentiary hearing to assess the innocence claim. The district judge, a Clinton appointee, held the hearing and issued a 172-page ruling finding that there was no serious reason to believe that Davis was anything but guilty. When it went back to the SCOTUS, Davis got not one single vote for cert. No Kagan. No Sotomayor. No Ginsburg. No Breyer.

The only "fire" going on is inside Mr. Jealous's head. Still, while he's at it, he can hold forth about all the reasons the Beltway Sniper also was innocent.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jan 10, 2012 10:08:37 PM

“People in this country care about fairness,”—Jealous, NAACP

Yes, which is why we all need to get behind William J. Hochul Jr., the U.S. attorney for Western NY, and others who are working to remedy the only true racial discrepancy in death penalty cases, i.e. fewer executions of those who murder minorities.

As we achieve a *higher execution rate* for all of those who have earned it, including those who have slaughtered urban, minority males, we attain *greater fairness*, no?

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 11, 2012 10:45:14 AM

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