Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sen. Jamie Raskin Promoted to Majority Whip // Plus, NAACP & Death Row Exoneree Make Case for Death Penalty Repeal

AUDIO INTERVIEW: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown Opposes Death Penalty

Today a Maryland Juice source reported that Senate President Mike Miller has tapped State Senator Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County to share the Majority Whip's role with his colleague, Sen. Lisa Gladden of Baltimore. The two Senators periodically team up on legislation, most notably in their efforts to try and repeal the death penalty in Maryland. Raskin is also heading up a new ethics committee in the wake of the Ulysses Currie scandal. But the timing of Mr. Raskin's promotion to Majority Whip is  interesting, because The Baltimore Sun yesterday reported on a renewed call to repeal Maryland's death penalty:
Ben Jealous, the national NAACP president, came to Annapolis Tuesday to call on Maryland legislators to make this the year the state does away with the death penalty.

Flanked by several legislators, Jealous said he intends to return to Annapolis repeatedly through the 90-day legislative session that starts Wednesday to work for repeal.

Death penalty opponents have come close in recent years to securing the votes needed to remove capital punishment from the books, but each time have fallen a few votes short.

This year, they are hoping that lingering doubts about the guilt or innocence of Troy Davis, a 42-year-old who was convicted of murder in 1981 and executed in Georgia in September, will give fresh impetus to their efforts.
The execution of Troy Davis last year did indeed put the spotlight on the risk of executing innocent people in America. It is this continuing worry that has motivated many people to continue fighting capital punishment in Maryland. But we do not need to turn to Georgia to look for examples of potentially innocent people being put on death row.

You've probably never heard of Maryland resident Kirk Bloodsworth. He was the first wrongfully convicted person in the nation to be released from death row based on DNA evidence. Forget about all those CSI episodes, Bloodsworth's harrowing tale is the real deal. He spent eight years in prison for a crime he didn't commit -- with two of them on death row. When he was released, he was given a whopping $300,000 for his eight years of Hell. Oops! Guess what his position on capital punishment is?  In any case, his true story is currently being turned into a documentary film right now. The video below explains the project. Note that the film has succeeded in fundraising for its production costs by appealing to ordinary Internet users on

Meet Kirk Bloodsworth

The Baltimore Sun's article about the NAACP's push for death penalty repeal in Maryland also noted the following:
Lawmakers who favor repeal say they have the votes it would take to pass a repeal bill on the floor of both chambers. But Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, the chief Senate sponsor of repeal legislation, said opponents still need a sixth vote on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to advance legislation to the Senate floor.

Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat, urged death penalty opponents to contact Sens. James Brochin and Robert Zirkin, both Baltimore County Democrats, to urge them to supply the decisive vote. Brochin and Zirkin are seen as the swing votes on the issue.
We previously noted that Senator Brochin received very unfavorable boundaries in the last redistricting. But that doesn't mean there isn't still time for him to do the right thing! In fact, I'm sure that Kirk Bloodsworth is hoping that if more people like Senator Brochin hear his story, it might change their minds. In the video below he explains his hopes for the film:

In a response to Maryland Juice last September, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown reiterated his opposition to the death penalty and left open the possibility that the issue could be considered again in 2012. So far we haven't seen any indication that the Senate is ready to take up the death penalty again, but it looks like -- slowly but surely -- we are laying the groundwork to finally get this done in Maryland. Listen to Lt. Gov. Brown's comments below:

Full Disclosure: During law school I volunteered for and served on the Board of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.

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