On November 12, the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment voted 13-7 to recommend to the legislature to repeal the death penalty in that state. The 23-member commission whose membership includes a police chief, a former death row inmate exonerated by DNA, religious leaders, three murder victims family members, legislators, and a county prosecutor, found that “the capital punishment system as it exists in Maryland doesn’t really work.” Five people have been executed in Maryland since 1978.
The commission also found:
- Racial and geographic disparities exist in how the death penalty is applied.
- Death penalty cases are more costly than non-death penalty cases and take a greater toll on survivors of murder victims.
- There is no persuasive evidence that risk of execution is a deterrent to crime, and the unavailability of DNA evidence in some cases opens the “the real possibility” of wrongfully convicting an innocent person.
The same realities exists in Tennessee’s death penalty system. The Tennessee Committee to Study the Administration of the Death Penalty has uncovered very similar evidence, including greater costs, geographic and racial disparities, and lack of DNA preservation. The question remains, “What will the Tennessee Committee recommend to the legislature in 2009?” And, “What will the new legislature do with this information?”
State after state continues to uncover the utter brokenness of the death penalty system, and I hope that Maryland will become the second state to abolish the death penalty in recent years, following New Jersey’s lead, demonstrating that abolition isn’t an aberration but is becoming a trend.
TCASK will keep you updated on the status of the death penalty in Maryland as the legislature considers the Commission’s findings.
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