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March 18, 2013

Gov O'Malley explains his reasons for seeking Maryland's death penalty repeal

In Politico, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has this new opinion piece headlined "Repealing Maryland's death penalty." Here are excerpts:

In Maryland, we govern by results: when a public policy works, we choose to invest in it. On the other hand, when a public policy does not produce results, we invest our limited resources instead in things that are proven to work.

Capital punishment is expensive and the overwhelming evidence tells us that it does not work as a deterrent.

Therefore, rather than continuing to throw taxpayers’ money at an ineffective death penalty, our state has chosen – with bipartisan support – to replace capital punishment with a more effective and cost efficient public policy: life without parole. We are the first state below the Mason-Dixon line to do so, but I believe other states will follow suit.

Capital punishment is not a deterrent, it is not fool-proof, it is administered with great racial disparity, it costs three times as much as life without parole, and there is no way to reverse a mistake when an innocent person is wrongly convicted.

In 2011, the average murder rate in states where there is a death penalty was 4.9 per 100,000 people. In states without it, the murder rate was lower. It was 4.1 per 100,000 people.

Between 2000 and 2011, an average of 5 death row inmates were exonerated every year. In Maryland, between 1995 and 2007, our state’s reversal rate for the death penalty was 80 percent.

By 1999 the city of Baltimore had become the most violent and drug addicted city in America. Through all the preceding decades of rising violence, the death penalty was on the books and did absolutely nothing to prevent this from happening. Effective policing, expanded drug treatment, smarter strategies, new technologies to solve crime and target repeat violent offenders — these are the things that work to drive down violent crime.

Just as the death penalty did not prevent Baltimore from becoming the most violent city in America in the 1990s, it also contributed nothing at all to Baltimore’s historic reductions in crime over the last decade. Nor has the death penalty had any positive impact on our more recent statewide success in Maryland, in driving down violent crime and homicides to three-decade lows.

Every dollar we throw at maintaining an ineffective death penalty is a dollar we are not investing in the strategies and tactics that actually work to save lives. If we want better results, we must make better choices. We have a responsibility to do more of the things that work to save lives. So too, do we have a responsibility to stop doing things that are wasteful, expensive, and do not work....

Improving public safety is the most fundamental responsibility of our government. The death penalty does not make us stronger or more secure as a people. It is expensive, ineffective, and wasteful as a matter of public policy; it is unjust as historically applied; and its imperfections can and do result in the occasional killing of innocent people. That is why, in Maryland, we have replaced the death penalty with the punishment of life without parole.

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March 18, 2013 at 10:34 AM | Permalink


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"Gov O'Malley explains his reasons for seeking Maryland's death penalty repeal."

Not that hard to figure out: It helps him raise PAC money in Hollywood for his upcoming Presidential run.

"Capital punishment is not a deterrent..."

The majority of studies, and anecdotal evidence, say otherwise.

"...it is not fool-proof..."

Nothing is foolproof, including prison security, which is sufficiently lax that imprisoned killers who should have been executed have killed again many times, thus costing innocent life. Not that O'Malley cares.

"...it is administered with great racial disparity..."

That's because murder is committed with great racial disparity, brickhead. Black on white murders vastly outnumber white on black murders.

"...it costs three times as much as life without parole..."

Executions in Maryland haven't cost a single dime in O'Malley's endless administratrion, there having been none. The cost of imprisonment, however, has gone up.

"...and there is no way to reverse a mistake when an innocent person is wrongly convicted."

Which is both false and beside the point. It's false because when an innocent person is convicted, he can and does get review, often for years. Sometimes the conviction is reversed (a fact widely trumpted right on this blog).

What is NOT beside the point is that, once an innocent person is wrongly EXECUTED, there is no way to reverse the mistake. The reason O'Malley carefully avoids saying this is that, as he knows, Maryland has essentially no history in the modern era of executing anyone who's innocent. This needs to remain covered up -- a long tradition with Maryland governors.

"By 1999 the city of Baltimore had become the most violent and drug addicted city in America."

Is there a reason O'Malley doesn't meniton what his last job was before becoming governor, and which party had control in Baltimore for all those years?

"Through all the preceding decades of rising violence, the death penalty was on the books and did absolutely nothing to prevent this from happening."

Thst's because, when it's never carried out, it has no effect.

The question here is not how stupid O'Malley is. It's how stupid he thinks the rest of us are.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 18, 2013 11:42:02 AM

poor old Otis!

Posted by: claudio giusti | Mar 18, 2013 12:40:33 PM

The vote was not really "bipartisan" -- only a few Republicans (a quick search does not tell me the final numbers in the Senate) voted for the repeal.

The focus on cost is more prudential than anything else. One article noted:

"Supporters of repeal argue that the death penalty is costly, error-prone, racially biased, and a poor deterrent of crime. But opponents say it is a necessary tool to punish lawbreakers who commit the most-egregious crimes."


A poll, fwiw, held that a majority didn't think it deters, but supports it, apparently as a moral matter.

Maryland has a large Catholic population, and like Mario Cuomo, the governor's opposition was influenced by his moral beliefs that guide his view of good public policy. Many Catholics oppose the death penalty while others shared Scalia's view of things.

The article also notes:

"Capital punishment was put on hold in Maryland after a December 2006 ruling by Maryland’s highest court that the state’s lethal injection protocols weren’t properly approved by a legislative committee. The committee, whose co-chairs oppose capital punishment, has yet to sign off on protocols."

Also, five people were executed there since the 1970s. It is must easier to imagine ending a practice when it rarely is applied.

Posted by: Joe | Mar 18, 2013 12:41:15 PM

claudio --

You wonderfully represent the analytical ability of abolitionist thinking.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 18, 2013 1:18:20 PM

poor Billy Otis
According to Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/1606/death-penalty.aspx the majority of Americans do NOT believe the death penalty is a deterrent and are sure innocent people were executed.

Posted by: claudio giusti | Mar 18, 2013 1:44:16 PM

"Your car doesn't run, therefore you should get rid of it," said the person who pulled out the spark plug wires.

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Mar 18, 2013 2:31:49 PM

claudio --

"poor Billy Otis"

Good God will you please grow up.

"According to Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/1606/death-penalty.aspx the majority of Americans do NOT believe the death penalty is a deterrent..."

It can hardly be a deterrent when it isn't used, and it isn't used in Maryland.

"...and are sure innocent people were executed."

That is almost certainly correct -- just not in the modern era.

It is also certainly correct that innocent people have been butchered by some killers who legally could have been sentenced to death and executed, but weren't.

The difference, claudio, is that you care about the killers but don't give a damn about the innocent people they sliced-and-diced. This gives you exactly zilch moral standing. So get off your "Amerika Stinks" soapbox.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 18, 2013 4:11:42 PM

poor little Otis! You are losing your nasty toy.
You are happy a terrorist like Posada Carriles is free because his victims were only Cubans,
You know nothing about death penalty in your own country.
Please stop kidding and read something

Posted by: claudio giusti | Mar 18, 2013 4:19:58 PM

claudio --

I was wrong. The problem is not that you haven't grown up. The problem is that you're crazy.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Mar 18, 2013 5:14:27 PM

I am convinced that overzealous and unprincipled prosecutors and police have seriously undermined the case for the death penalty. See Milke v. Ryan, 2013 WL 979127 (9th Cir. March 14, 2013) (conviction and death sentence reversed where prosecutor committed Brady violation in state murder prosecution by suppressing evidence that interrogating officer, who asserted that the defendant had confessed to her, had been investigated and suspended for taking sexual liberties with a female motorist, as well as several court orders finding that the officer had lied under oath in order to secure a conviction or further a prosecution; such evidence was relevant to issue of officer's willingness to lie under oath, as well as his misogynistic attitude toward female civilians and his willingness to abuse his authority to get what he wanted, prosecutors were well aware of officer's pattern of misconduct in other criminal cases); In re Stenson, 174 Wash.2d 474, 276 P.3d 286 (Wash.,2012) (murder conviction and death sentence vacated because state suppressed FBI files relating to forensic evidence that was favorable to the defense); In re Bacigalupo, 55 Cal.4th 312 (2012) (death sentence vacated where prosecutor suppressed favorable evidence it received from informant that supported defendant’s claim that he committed murder because of threats against his family when “prosecution argued during penalty phase that there was “no evidence of duress whatsoever and that greed was defendant's sole motive”); Wolfe v. Clarke, 691 F.3d 410 (4th Cir. 2012) (murder conviction and death sentence vacated where state suppressed police report establishing motive not only for government witness to implicate someone else, but to point the finger specifically at petitioner) ; U.S. v. Mahaffy, 693 F.3d 113 (2d Cir. 2012) (vacating conviction for conspiracy to disclose confidential information relating to securities because “ government's failure to disclose portions of the transcripts [that contradicted the testimony of its key witnesses] violated Brady”); Phillips v. Ornoski, 673 F.3d 1168 (9th Cir. 2012) (death penalty vacated because the prosecutor’s deceit regarding the immunity given to a key witness violated Brady and Napue. ); Tuma v. Com., 60 Va.App. 273, 726 S.E.2d 365 (Va.App.,2012) (conviction for sex abuse reversed because of Brady error: prosecutor’s failure to disclose audio recording of five-year-old victim's interview with county social services where her testimony was the only evidence linking defendant to alleged offenses, and there was no physical evidence implicating defendant); State v. Hollin, 970 N.E.2d 147, 149 (Ind.,2012) (burglary conviction reversed because of state's Brady violation: failure to disclose pending criminal matters against alleged accomplice and fact that accomplice had changed his pretrial account of alleged burglary only after being charged with a new felony) ; Ex Parte Wyatt, 2012 WL 1647004, 1 (Tex.Crim.App., 2012) (rape conviction and 99-year sentence vacated because state suppressed evidence that would have supported the defense's theory of mis-identification. Those items were a police photograph and fingerprint card from a May 20, 1980, arrest, which depicted Applicant with facial hair and showed his weight as 135 pounds, a police report indicating that one of the complainants told police that her attacker weighed 200 pounds, and the fact that the same complainant had viewed a live lineup and had not identified Applicant in that lineup); Guzman v. Dept. of Corrections, 663 F.3d 1336 (11th Cir. 2011) (state violated Giglio when its key witness and its lead investigator testified falsely about the existence of a deal between the state and Cronin); U.S. v. Freeman, 650 F.3d 673 (7th Cir. 2011) (mistrial proper where government knew, or should have known witness presented false testimony); Texas v. Morton (Williamson County, Texas No. 86-452-K26) (2011) (just google “Michael Morton”) (Michael Morton exonerated by DNA evidence after 25 years in prison in case in which prosecutors hid Brady evidence)

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | Mar 18, 2013 7:32:51 PM

What is it about Democrats and capital murderers?

Posted by: federalist | Mar 18, 2013 10:29:21 PM

can be I am so crazy to spend my time with a serial administrative killer like you.

Posted by: claudio giusti | Mar 19, 2013 5:17:05 AM

Capital punishment is expensive - his best argument...So is LWOP. Next we will hear from liberals that Life without parole is too expensive...we shouldnt care for criminals over age 80...they should be released...it will never end....JUSTICE calls for killers to be executed...plain and simple....O'Malley can go pound sand.

Posted by: DeanO | Mar 19, 2013 7:43:12 AM

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