With the help of murder victims’ families, Maryland repealed the death penalty last year, becoming the 18th state that does not have a death penalty statute. In light of the savings made possible by repealing the death penalty, repeal advocates worked with victims’ advocates, whose opinions about repeal differed, to urge Maryland to do more for murder victims’ families. Unanimous votes on the companion legislation in both chambers revealed the common ground between pro- and anti-repeal lawmakers that these victims’ families need more support. On April 5, with the passage of the 2015 fiscal year budget, Maryland dedicated a half million dollars for support and services to these family members. Maryland is the second state in the country after Illinois to reallocate savings from death penalty repeal to improve services for victims’ families.
This budgetary flexibility has emerged directly from the state’s savings from the death penalty. Shari Silberstein, Executive Director of Equal Justice USA, stated, “Without the death penalty to distract and divide us, it was easy to find common ground. Lawmakers and advocates all agree that victims matter.” Murder victims families were critical in the work to repeal Maryland’s death penalty and their efforts have now .
Bonnita Spikes, whose husband Michael Spikes was murdered in 1994, was one of the leading advocates calling for death penalty repeal and funding for victims’ services as a member of the broad coalition.
Please thank the Governor and key lawmakers who made passage of this legislation possible.
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