Maryland Abolition Takes Another Step Forward

January 16, 2009

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has announced, via a Washington Post article among other places, that he intends to personally sponsor a death penalty repeal bill and will “do ‘everything in [his] power’ to abolish capital punishment in Maryland.”

This doesn’t mean ending the death penalty in Maryland will be easy, but a serious investment of that kind of political capital into an issue can only be helpful.  And the Governor’s personal support comes after the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment issued its final report last month, which also recommended abolition.  In the General Assembly, by most accounts, the votes are there, except in the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee, where it fell just one vote short two years ago.

The Commission report clearly illustrates the problems with Maryland’s death penalty (problems which are common to all the other capital punishment states).  The Commission concluded that the death penalty in Maryland is racially and geographically biased, more costly, and not a deterrent.  The Commission also found that the death penalty was more harmful to victims’ families than the alternatives and that there is a “real possibility” of executing an innocent person in Maryland.

Maryland has had only 5 executions in 30 years, and there are only 5 men currently on Maryland’s death row, so you have to wonder:  what is it death penalty supporters are clinging to?  As Senate President and death penalty supporter Mike Miller suggested to the Post:  “When you’re middle-aged, your mind is pretty much set on issues like this.”  It appears that Governor O’Malley is determined to change at least a couple of those minds.