Maryland and the Death Penalty: Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley, chose Jan. 15, the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., to announce his determination to repeal the state's law allowing capital punishment. "Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence," he said, quoting Dr. King.
The death penalty does not deter murders, the governor said, since states with the penalty have had higher murder rates than states without it. And prosecuting a capital case in Maryland costs 3 times as much as pursuing a homicide conviction that carries a sentence of life without parole. In short, the penalty has been a huge waste of taxpayer money on a policy that manifestly does not work. Significantly, he said, the state has gathered sobering proof that its use of the death penalty has been so unfair - so arbitrary and capricious - as to be unjust and immoral.
The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment reported in 2008 that the "administration of the death penalty clearly shows racial bias" and that the chances of a state prosecutor's "seeking and imposing a death sentence differs alarmingly across jurisdictions in Maryland, even when the cases are similar."
In addition, the reversal rate in Maryland death penalty cases has been stunningly high; it was 80 % for the years 1995 to 2007, the commission reported. Prosecutors have withheld potentially exculpatory evidence. Judges have made decisions that were unfair to defendants. The police have forced involuntary confessions.
4 years ago, the Maryland Legislature chose not to repeal the state's death penalty law and instead made it the most stringent in the country. A person cannot be sentenced to death without DNA evidence tying a defendant to the murder, a videotaped voluntary confession or a videotape of the crime. But this law makes the state's administration of capital punishment even more arbitrary and capricious, since this evidence is so rarely collected.
As a practical matter, Maryland cannot execute anyone now. Its highest court ruled in 2006 that the state cannot use the lethal injection protocol devised by the corrections department because the Legislature did not review and approve it, as state law requires. In fact, the state has not executed anyone since 2005. But the law remains on the books, and the time has come to abolish it.
As Governor O'Malley said: "We know what does not work. And we know that the way forward is always found through greater respect for the human dignity of all."
(source: Editorial, New York Times)
The same author who wrote the original "Les Miserables" also spoke the following
Plea Against the Death Penalty:
Look, examine, reflect. You hold capital punishment up as an example. Why? Because of what it teaches. And just what is it that you wish to teach by means of this example? That thou shalt not kill. And how do you teach that "thou shalt not kill"? By killing.
I have examined the death penalty under each of its 2 aspects: as a direct action, and as an indirect one. What does it come down to? Nothing but something horrible and useless, nothing but a way of shedding blood that is called a crime when an individual commits it, but is (sadly) called "justice" when society brings it about. Make no mistake, you lawmakers and judges, in the eyes of God as in those of conscience, what is a crime when individuals do it is no less an offense when society commits the deed.
Victor Hugo, Speech at the Constituent Assembly, September 15, 1848
(Dr. Rick Halperin features the Hugo quote above as a constant reminder on his "Death Penalty: News & Updates".)
For more from Rick, see the column of links on the right side of this blogsite -- Go there often and support an end to the death penalty.