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Maryland Bans The Death Penalty

Maryland is a Governor’s signature away from becoming the 18th state to ban the death penalty:

Maryland lawmakers approved a measure abolishing the death penalty on Friday, and the bill is expected to be signed by the Democratic governor who has long pushed for banning capital punishment in the state.

If the measure is signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, it will make Maryland the 18th state in the nation to do away with the death penalty.

A repeal bill won final passage from the House of Delegates on Friday. It already had been approved by the Senate.

The House advanced the legislation this week after delegates rejected nearly 20 amendments, mostly from Republicans, aimed at keeping capital punishment for the most heinous crimes.

If passed, life without the possibility of parole would be the most severe sentence in the state.

Supporters of repeal argue that the death penalty is costly, error-prone, racially biased and a poor deterrent of crime. But opponents say it is a necessary tool to punish lawbreakers who commit the most egregious crimes.

Maryland has five men on death row. The measure would not apply to them retroactively, but the legislation makes clear that the governor can commute their sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The state’s last execution took place in 2005, during the administration of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich. He resumed executions after a moratorium had been in place pending a 2003 University of Maryland study, which found significant racial and geographic disparity in how the death penalty was carried out.

Capital punishment was put on hold in Maryland after a December 2006 ruling by Maryland’s highest court that the state’s lethal injection protocols weren’t properly approved by a legislative committee. The committee, whose co-chairs oppose capital punishment, has yet to sign off on protocols.

O’Malley, a Catholic, expressed support for repeal legislation in 2007, but it stalled in a Senate committee.

There’s really no doubt that O’Malley will sign the bill, so this will become law. As I’ve noted before, I oppose the death penalty because I do not believe that our legal system can operate with the degree of precision required for me to be comfortable with the idea of putting people to death. The number of men who have been freed from prison, and even Death Row, after DNA evidence has exonerated them would seem to confirm my opinion.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    I agree entirely and on the same grounds. Bravo, Maryland.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Laws of unintended consequences.

    Twenty-year-old black kid from the mean streets of Baltimore caps a guy in the head as part of a contract drug hit. Gets convicted of M1 with special circumstances. With no death penalty on the books, obviously the sentence will be LWOP.

    Kid can’t get along with fellow inmates. Strangles to death a fellow prisoner.

    Then gets placed in solitary confinment for a year or two. Goes nuts while in solitary.

    Then rots in prison for the next fifty years (that’s fifty, 5-0), variously alternating between GP, solitary, administrative segregation and the mental ward.

    Wouldn’t it have been far better, far less costly to taxpayers, and far less “cruel and inhuman,” simply to have given him the needle at age 25 or thereabouts?

    Why do you anti-death penalty advocates want to torture these men for five or more decades, on the public dime, no less, especially racial minorities? It’s beyond the pale.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  3. Ben says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Because if we find out 20 years later that he was actually innocent (which has already happened hundreds of times), it’s pretty hard to make amends to a corpse.

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  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    What other made up scenarios should we be afraid of, and base our laws upon? Because we do know that hundreds of people have been put to death that have been found to be innocent later.

    But you are right. We should base our laws upon our fears and imagination rather than actual facts.

    I normally try not to descend into polemics, but Jesus Christ you are f*cking idiot.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  5. OldSouth says:

    On balance, I think Mr. Mataconis’s reasoning is valid. I’ve been around lawyers and police officers who would gladly send someone to the gallows on manufactured evidence, provided it promoted their careers.

    There are people out there who do commit murder, premeditated brutal murder, and they need to be brought to bear in the interests of safety and justice. It’s the ones in the business suits and judicial robes that frighten me most.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    I normally try not to descend into polemics, but Jesus Christ you are f*cking idiot.

    The fact that it took you this long speaks well of your character and even temper. I of course called him an idiot on first seeing his screen name. Because, really, what kind of an idiot names himself after one of the most humiliating failures in political history?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. gVOR08 says:

    Several years ago I got out of serving on a jury on a capital murder case. When asked, I told the lawyers and judge that I had a problem with the death penalty. They let me off. (They were probably going to let me off anyway, I’m an engineer.) If they’d pressed I’d have told them, honestly, that I’d seen no evidence it was a deterrent and that it coarsened the society that did it. What I didn’t get into with them was that when confronted with it, I was having trouble seeing the difference between what the two guys in nice suits from the prosecutors office claimed the guy did to his wife, and what they wanted me to help them do to him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  8. I oppose the death penalty because I do not believe that our legal system can operate with the degree of precision required for me to be comfortable with the idea of putting people to death

    I used to be in this same spot….but Tim McVeigh changed my mind.

    Now I oppose the death penalty…..with exceptions.

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Wouldn’t it have been far better, far less costly to taxpayers, and far less “cruel and inhuman,” simply to have given him the needle at age 25 or thereabouts?

    I know they say there’s no such thing as dumb questions, but man……

    But which would YOU choose, man? Forget this “some black dude” nonsense. Let’s say YOU get to choose life or death. Are you gonna say “Gimme the needle?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. John Peabody says:

    It’s untrue that executing is cheaper than LWOP- because of the extra court costs and various levels of appeals, and the man-hours of the staff of the DA office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  10. anjin-san says:

    Wouldn’t it have been far better, far less costly to taxpayers, and far less “cruel and inhuman,” simply to have given him the needle at age 25 or thereabouts?

    You might be able to make that argument were it not for a certain conservative governor who does not appear to give a flaming shit if innocents are executed. (and countless other conservatives who no doubt feel the same way)

    You can let someone out of prison if a mistake is made. You can’t let them out of the graveyard.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. anjin-san says:

    Twenty-year-old black kid

    Well yes, we know black kids are inherently violent. Of course.

    What a vile little pissant you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  12. swbarnes2 says:

    As I’ve noted before, I oppose the death penalty because I do not believe that our legal system can operate with the degree of precision required for me to be comfortable with the idea of putting people to death.

    Precision is not the problem. We aim to kill 1.00000000 persons, and we kill 1.0000000 persons.

    It’s the accuracy that is the issue. And even if we were killing criminals with 100% accuracy, it would still be unseemly to be picking mostly non-whites for execution, while letting white people who commit the same kinds of crimes live, which is also something that happens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Why do you anti-death penalty advocates I want to try to torture these men for five or more decades, on the public dime, no less, especially racial minorities everyone else around here with my concern trolling, ad nauseam repetition of tired clichés, and constant spouting of inane bullshit? It’s beyond the pale.

    Happy to be of help to you…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  14. Stonetools says:

    Agree with Doug here. Good for you, Maryland.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Laws of unintended consequences.

    Tsar, you define the Laws of Unintended Consequences.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Wouldn’t it have been far better, far less costly to taxpayers, and far less “cruel and inhuman,” simply to have given him the needle at age 25 or thereabouts?

    And what world do you live in? Could you have possibly shown yourself to be more clueless than with this completely divorced from reality statement?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. George W. Bush says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Ummm…..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Why do you anti-death penalty advocates want to torture these men for five or more decades, on the public dime, no less, especially racial minorities? It’s beyond the pale.

    Perhaps, because, as you conservatives like to observe about liberals – we’re not pro-life, remember?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. Tyrell says:

    While I would agree that life w.o.release is appropriate and the best answer for most capital crimes, the kidnapping and murder of a child, in cases where guilt is not in question, execution is appropriate and the only answer. But that being said, the families of the victims should be the ones who decide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Travis Mason-Bushman says:

    @Tyrell:
    And how do you know when “guilt is not in question?” Hundreds of innocent people have been rammed through the “justice” system and onto Death Row, only to be exonerated. It is utterly indisputable that we have, in fact, executed innocent, wrongfully-convicted people at some point.

    We are human, and thus our justice system is imperfect. It is fundamentally immoral for an imperfect justice system to impose an irreversible penalty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0