Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Washington Post: Maryland Missed An Opportunity to Abolish the Death Penalty // Connecticut Set to End State Killings


The Washington Post yesterday issued an editorial lamenting that lawmakers once again failed to abolish the death penalty in "The Free State." Maryland Juice seconds their motion for action to end the practice. Their commentary flags many of the major policy problems that arise when allowing the state to execute people (see excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Connecticut is set to become what Maryland should have been: the most recent state to abolish capital punishment.

With the expected signature of Gov. Dan Malloy (D) within the next few days, Connecticut would become the 17th state to repeal the death penalty and the fifth in the past five years....
Once an execution has been carried out, there is no chance for reversal. And there is no level of certainty that can guarantee a grievous mistake will be averted. Roughly 140 death-row inmates have been exonerated since 1973, many after serving years on death row or coming close to execution.

There is also no evidence that capital punishment deters the most violent crimes. But a capital case often sucks millions of dollars from public coffers because defendants must be provided with more than one lawyer and other resources. Even after a conviction, these cases drag on for years, taking a toll on victims’ families.

All of these factors are well known to Maryland lawmakers, who just three years ago came within one vote of repealing the death penalty. Add to that historical racial disparities in how the penalty has been applied and the reluctance of the state to carry out such sentences....
Yet Maryland’s lawmakers refused to seriously consider repeal during the recent legislative session. Connecticut’s approach may be imperfect, but lawmakers there at least had the fortitude to act.

BACKGROUND: In January, as the legislature opened for business, Maryland Juice called on lawmakers to end the practice of state killings. We noted that 2014 gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown reiterated opposition to the death penalty, and that Gov. Martin O'Malley had previously tried but failed to usher through its abolition. We also recounted the tale of Maryland resident Kirk Bloodsworth, the first man released from death row after DNA evidence proved his innocence. Lastly, our article highlighted the fact that the national NAACP president visited Maryland lawmakers and urged them to make this the year that they abolished the death penalty. But the issue doesn't appear to have been seriously considered.

ADD DEATH PENALTY REPEAL TO THE AUG SPECIAL SESSION: Maryland Juice believes The Washington Post may have drafted their editorial too quickly. After all, it is untrue that Maryland missed an opportunity to abolish the death penalty. Gov. Martin O'Malley recently indicated that there would likely be two forthcoming special sessions, and therefore two more opportunities to consider the issue.

Maryland Juice thinks that lawmakers should add capital punishment to the second special session in August. After all, ending the practice of murder committed by the state seems like an elegant way to end the legislative year. This is especially true, because lawmakers seem prepared to return for an August session dedicated solely to expanding gambling throughout Maryland.

Besides, aren't Maryland policymakers tired of getting beaten to the punch by other states? Its not as if we live in South Carolina (or Virginia, god forbid). Why so cautious? My hunch is that the safe and vanilla won't play so well in the competitive 2014 Democratic primaries. Put some toppings on your pizza.

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