Governor O'Malley Joins Pastors' March on Annapolis to Repeal the Death Penalty in Maryland
Governor Attends "Praying for Maryland Families" Breakfast
Following a Prayer Breakfast for Maryland Families, Governor Martin O'Malley joined with hundreds of statewide religious leaders for a Pastors' March on Annapolis to repeal the death penalty in the State of Maryland.
Standing with over one hundred religious leaders at the Thurgood Marshall Memorial Statue, Governor O'Malley called the death penalty "outdated, expensive and utterly ineffective" in helping to reduce violent crime in the State of Maryland.
"The death penalty did nothing to help us achieve the second largest reduction in homicides in nearly a quarter century last year. In our State, we're reducing violent crime through innovative policing, improved state and local partnerships, security integration and advances in DNA technology," said Governor O'Malley.
"Nonviolent solutions to lowering the murder rate are more effective than violence committed by the state through the penalty of death," said the Right Reverend Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. "Nonviolence is still the most powerful weapon that we have to deter social evils today---more powerful than the electric chair, more effective than a lethal injection. We are not going to kill our way of a culture awash in violence. That is why we will use our prayers and our feet to call upon our legislature to repeal the death penalty."
"The death penalty serves as an unjust answer for all concerned - from the individual who committed the act especially if innocent at a later date; or the victim's family and the community at large," said Pastor Claudia B. Walter, of the Power Alliance of Christians Group Ministries. "Its overall cost outweighs its expected end and what it hoped to accomplish. One Life for another will not accomplish anything or lower the crime rate on the streets of Maryland. It has not proved to be a deterrent to violent crimes, but it has proven to be a costly one. These monies used for each person convicted could serve the community at large by providing more law enforcement services and community programs.
In his 2009 legislative package, Governor O'Malley has introduced legislation to abolish capital punishment in Maryland, and has also introduced bills to improve public safety in the State including two bills that would protect victims of domestic violence.
Based on the recommendations of the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, Governor O'Malley's proposed legislation (Criminal Law - Death Penalty- Repeal, HB 316, SB 279), would seek the repeal of the death penalty in the State of Maryland.
The Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment was created by an act of the Maryland General Assembly in the 2008 legislative session. The 22-member Commission's membership represented a broad diversity of views on capital punishment, as well as the racial, ethnic, gender, and geographic diversity of the State. The law required the Commission to make recommendations to address: racial, jurisdictional, and socio-economic disparities; the risk of innocent people being executed; a comparison of the costs and effects of "prolonged court cases involving capital punishment" versus cases involving life imprisonment without the possibility of parole; and "the impact of DNA evidence in assuring fairness and accuracy in capital cases." Chaired by former U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, the Commission reviewed testimony from experts and members of the public, relevant Maryland laws and court cases, as well as statistics and studies relevant to the topic of capital punishment in Maryland, and submitted a final report on its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly in December 2008. After a thorough review of this information, the Commission recommended that capital punishment be abolished in Maryland.
In particular, the Commission found that:
1. Racial disparities exist in Maryland's capital sentencing system.
2. Jurisdictional disparities exist in Maryland's capital sentencing system.
3. The costs associated with cases in which a death sentence is sought are substantially higher than the costs associated with cases in which a sentence of life without the possibility of parole is sought.
4. While both life without the possibility of parole and death penalty cases are extremely hard on families of victims, the effects of capital cases are more detrimental to families than are life without the possibility of parole cases. The Commission recommends an increase of the services and resources already provided to families of victims as recommended by the Victims' Subcommittee.
5. Despite the advance of forensic sciences, particularly DNA testing, the risk of execution of an innocent person is a real possibility.
6. The Commission finds that there is no persuasive evidence that the death penalty deters homicides in Maryland.
7. Ultimate Recommendation: The Commission recommends abolition of capital punishment in the state of Maryland.
"I wholeheartedly agree with my fellow commission members who, after lengthy, careful, and honest deliberations, recommended that the death penalty in Maryland be repealed," said Most Reverend Dennis J. Madden, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. "The arguments put forth by the Commission are very compelling. But in our view as a faith community, arguments against the death penalty do not rest simply on questions regarding bias, deterrence, cost-effectiveness, and the possibility of error. Our Church's long-standing advocacy for death penalty repeal in Maryland rests upon our consistent advocacy for laws that respect all human life - even that of the convicted criminal. The teachings of our Church tell us that when other punishment options are available to government that sufficiently protect the public's safety, we should not resort to the death penalty, not even in the case of one who takes the life of another human being. Since 1987, those means have been available in Maryland in the form of life-without-parole sentences."
Last week, Governor O'Malley testified before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on abolishing capital punishment in Maryland. To read the entire text of Governor O'Malley's prepared testimony, go to http://www.governor.maryland.gov/speeches/090218c.asp.