"Positive" Vote by Maryland Senate to Abolish the Death Penalty

Press Release
March 6, 2013

"Positive" Vote by Maryland Senate to Abolish the Death Penalty

Funds Must Be Restored to Support Victims' Families

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @AIUSAmedia

(ANNAPOLIS, Md.) - Amnesty International said today the 27-20 vote to repeal the death penalty by the Maryland Senate is "a positive development for human rights" but asserted the bill will be "incomplete" until funds for victims' families are restored. Senate Bill 276 must still pass the House and be signed by Gov. O'Malley before it becomes a law.

Following the vote, Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, released the following statement:

"With this vote, Maryland is significantly closer to joining 17 other states that have already abandoned capital punishment. The Maryland House should now follow the Senate's lead and approve this landmark human rights legislation without delay.

Today's vote is a positive development for human rights in Maryland. But it is incomplete, without a provision that allocated some funds saved by repeal to support victims' families. Families of murder victims face many hardships. Often the lost loved one was the family breadwinner. The costs of travel or missed work time to attend court hearings, as well as expenses for grief counseling and funeral arrangements can add up quickly, particularly for lower income families. Victims' families need and deserve support.

The General Assembly and the Governor must make good on pledges of support for victims' families and find a way to provide that funding this year. Ending the practice of state killing of prisoners while providing much-needed funding to address the profound needs of victims' family members will make Maryland a true leader in opting for a better kind of justice - one that respects the human rights and human dignity of all."

The fund to support families was stripped in committee.

Today's Maryland Senate vote fits in with larger national and international trends. Four states have repealed the death penalty legislatively since 2007, and a fifth, New York, had its capital punishment statute nullified by state courts. Over one-third of U.S. states have now abolished the death penalty, and over two-thirds of the world's countries (140) have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice.

Since 1990, over 50 countries have abolished the death penalty, including Haiti, Paraguay, Romania, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, and Rwanda. In recent years the U.S. has consistently been among the top five countries that carried out the highest number of known judicial executions. In 2011 and 2012, the others were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq, whose governments have consistently demonstrated notoriously poor human rights records.

Amnesty International has been leading a global movement to abolish capital punishment since 1977, and has been organizing grassroots abolition efforts in Maryland for over a decade. During that time, it has served as an integral member of the Maryland Citizens Against State Executions coalition.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists, and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth, and dignity are denied.