About 35 clergy and others opposed to the Maryland death penalty march a short
distance from St. Anne's Episcopal Church to Lawyers Mall for a rally Wednesday
morning in Annapolis.
Advocates seeking to repeal the state’s death penalty are growing optimistic
that a bill could gain traction this year.
In 11 of the past 12 General Assembly sessions, efforts to repeal the death
penalty have failed. Now, organizers say they need to sway just 1 vote on the
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee to get the measure to a full vote of the
“It’s a hard committee. I admit that,” said Jane Henderson, executive director
of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions.
5 of the committee members are sponsors of the Senate bill or voted in favor of
bills to repeal the penalty in the past.
A hearing is scheduled for March 7.
Before then, Henderson and others are rallying constituents against the death
penalty to contact lawmakers. MoveOn.org sent out a letter to 118,000
Marylanders on Wednesday.
That morning, more than 200 religious leaders from across the state sent a
letter to lawmakers urging them to repeal the death penalty.
“A couple years ago, we made some real progress,” said the Rev. Peter Nord,
spiritual leader of the Presbyterian Church in Maryland, referring to the
report of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, a 23-member panel
created by the General Assembly.
The panel concluded in 2008 that the state should repeal the death penalty
because of racial and jurisdictional disparities and that death-penalty cases
cost more to prosecute than cases in which the death penalty isn't sought.
5 men are currently on death row in Maryland, according to Henderson’s group.
Since 1978, 5 men — 3 black, 2 white — have been executed. 11 men have been
removed from death row since 1978.
The probability of receiving a death sentence in Baltimore County is almost 23
times greater than in Baltimore city, nearly 14 times greater than in
Montgomery County and more than eight times greater than in Prince George's
County, according to the panel’s report.
8 members signed onto a 22-page minority report saying Maryland should keep the
An effort to repeal capital punishment in 2009 ended with a bill that restricts
the death penalty to cases with certain kinds of evidence.
Proponents say that law didn’t go far enough.
“We want the legislature to take this issue up. We want both houses to vote on
this matter this year,” Nord said.
The House Judiciary Committee has not set a hearing date on the repeal bill,
but 11 of 16 committee members are co-sponsors of the legislation.
“Clearly, this could pass tomorrow if a vote were held in the House,” Henderson
Committee member and co-sponsor Del. Tiffany T. Alston (D-Dist. 24) of
Mitchellville said the bill will “definitely get a hearing.”
Henderson said the six-week period remaining this session is not a lot of time
to usher through the repeal, but she’s confident a new layer to the bill will
buoy support. Gov. Martin O’Malley has been a vocal opponent of the death
penalty for years.
Because the repeal will save the state money, supporters say, a $500,000 annual
contribution can be made to the State Victims of Crime Fund.
A fiscal analysis has not been completed on the bill, but a 2008 study by the
Urban Institute found that it cost $3 million to prosecute a case that resulted
in the death penalty in Maryland versus $1.1 million for a case in which death
was not sought.
(source: Maryland Gazette)