Maryland Legal Scholars Argue for Death Penalty Repeal

The Baltimore Sun recently reported that a group of legal scholars and attorneys, including two former Maryland attorney generals and former Maryland governor, were sending letters and preparing a report for Maryland legislature advocating the repeal of the death penalty.

The group is focused on clearing up misconceptions about the new death penalty law passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2009. The new law primarily reformed evidentiary standards and trial procedures in death penalty cases. For example, the death penalty can only be sought when there is biological or video evidence connecting the defendant to the crime. Also, the new law added a “second phase to the sentencing trials,” which substantially adds to the cost of death penalty trials, according to Jane Henderson, executive director of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.

The letters and report argue that the new law does not limit the death penalty, but simply adds to its arbitrariness. Henderson commented that the evidentiary limits obscure the focus of prosecutors away from “the nature of the crime and remorse of the criminal” towards the more arbitrary fact of what kind of evidence is available. The only way to effectively eliminate these problems of arbitrariness and costs is to repeal the death penalty in Maryland.

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