measure unlikely to pass this year
A passionate group of advocates — including NAACP President Benjamin Jealous
and an innocent man who was on Maryland's death row for two years — came to
Annapolis Wednesday to argue against the state's death penalty.
"For this state to continue to spend money killing the killers that are already
going to spend the rest of their lives in cages ... quite frankly that is an
extravagance that the state can no longer afford," Jealous said.
National advocates targeted Maryland this year in repeal efforts, believing the
state's Democratic-dominated legislature had the votes needed to end the death
penalty. Supporters believe they could pass a repeal measure in the full House
and Senate, but acknowledge that they are a vote short to move it out of a key
Underlining that point, Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, the lead sponsor of a bill to
eliminate the death penalty, floated the idea of petitioning her legislation to
the Senate floor, a move that requires the consent of 15 senators. But the
Baltimore Democrat said Wednesday that she decided the maneuver would be
"political suicide" because she — and anyone who agreed to sign her letter —
would be viewed as "circumventing the committee process."
Sen. Victor R. Ramirez, a Prince George's County Democrat who wants to repeal
capital punishment in Maryland, said Gov. Martin O'Malley's intervention would
be needed to pass the bill. He noted the governor's success this year in
advocating for a measure to legalize same-sex marriage.
O'Malley tried — and failed — to repeal the state's death penalty in 2009.
Instead the Assembly severely restricted the circumstances under which capital
punishment could be sought, in an attempt to reduce errors. Now it is only
allowed in cases where there is DNA evidence, a taped confession or a video
recording of the crime.
That compromise was brokered by Sen. Bobby A. Zirkin, a Baltimore County
Democrat who is pleased with how the new law is working. He said it is very
unlikely that Maryland would execute an innocent person with the restrictions
One who disagreed was Kirk Bloodsworth, who was convicted in 1985 of raping and
killing a 9-year-old girl. After fighting the conviction for 9 years —
including 2 on death row — he was exonerated after DNA evidence pointed to
someone else as the killer.
"My life was changed forever because of a crime I didn't commit," said
Bloodsworth, 51, of Cambridge, who wore a tie with a double-helix — the
structure of DNA — for his appearance before the committee. "Even human beings
with the best intentions are still subject to errors."
During the roughly one-hour hearing before the Senate Judicial Proceedings
Committee, only Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger
testified in support of the status quo.
(source: Baltimore Sun)