MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript
MSNBC "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" INTERVIEW WITH MARYLAND GOVERNOR MARTIN O'MALLEY (D) INTERVIEWER: RACHEL MADDOW
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MS. MADDOW: If you are browsing the Celtic rock band websites of the world and you happen upon a website for the band O'Malley's March, do yourself a favor and go to the section marked "The Boys," as in the boys in the band. Click on "Martin" and learn all about their singer, who is described as, quote, "Emboldened by Shane MacGowan and seasoned by Christy Moore, Martin has played a narrow range of music his entire life -- Irish."
Martin also happens to be the governor of the state of Maryland. And I might be wrong here, and if I am, I will joyfully run a correction, but as far as I know, he is the only sitting governor who has also been the lead singer in a band this cool.
Governor Martin O'Malley has made national news as governor this year for boldly pushing his state to repeal the death penalty. Nationally we are killing fewer of our prisoners than we used to in this country, 37 people executed in 2008; that's the fewest number since 1994. And New Mexico just joined New Jersey in overturning and outlawing capital punishment in their state. State legislatures in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois and New Hampshire are all debating the same move.
In Maryland, where six people currently live on death row, the governor has made it his mission to abolish the death penalty, saying, quote, "We should not waste one instant, one day, one cent, one dime, serving death." He's promised to do everything in his power to get capital punishment banned in his state, and he almost succeeded. The state assembly just passed a law that would severely limit, though not end, capital punishment in the great state of Maryland.
Joining us now is Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley.
Governor O'Malley, please forgive me the O'Malley's March introduction. It's a pleasure to have you here on the show.
GOV. O'MALLEY: I forgive you, and because, you know, the Orioles just won the first two games of the season against the Yankees, Rachel, so I forgive you. I'm in a good mood.
MS. MADDOW: (Laughs.) You're going to make me so giddy, I'm going to float off the chair here as a Red Sox fan. Hoorah.
All right, so let's talk about what's just happened in your state. You took this bold political move. You said, "I'm going to push for this, and I don't really care what the impact on my political capital of it is."
So I have to ask you if you're happy with what your state legislature has decided to do. What are these new restrictions on the death penalty in your state?
GOV. O'MALLEY: Well, I think we made progress. I mean, this issue came up because, you know, right at the start of my term in 2006, the court of appeals got involved in it, pumped up the saliency in this debate. And I'm proud of the progress that we made together. It was not the full repeal that many of us had pushed for, but we brought together a lot of people and we were able to at least greatly narrow and modify Maryland's death penalty so as to try to avoid, so far as humanly possibly, the possibility that any innocent person would ever be sent to death row.
So the amendment in essence says that a person cannot be sent -- or capital punishment cannot be administered in cases unless there is conclusive biological evidence -- that is to say, DNA -- or a videotaped confession or a videotape of the act itself. So, you know, the arc of justice -- or rather the arc of history bends towards justice. It doesn't always get there in one or two years, but I think this is solid progress, and we move forward.
MS. MADDOW: In terms of your decision to push for this, did you feel like you were taking a political risk in taking this very public stand on this very divisive issue?
GOV. O'MALLEY: I don't know. You know, this is one of those issues that's evolving. Sixty-five percent of Marylanders agree that true life without parole would be an acceptable substitution for the death penalty, even as a narrow number say they're in favor of it.
So I think fundamentally, Rachel, that time will prove that the death penalty is inconsistent, you know, with sound policy. I mean, it's expensive. It does not work. It is not a deterrent. It takes money away from things that actually do save lives. And it's also -- I believe, anyway -- and this is with due respect to those that may disagree on this issue -- I believe that it's fundamentally at odds with some of the most important founding principles of this republic; namely, our belief in the dignity of every individual.
And, you know, it's hard to work up a lot of sympathy for many of the people that are on death row who have done these horrible things, but, you know, the death penalty does not save lives. Other things that we can do with a government that works can save lives. I mean, last year we reduced homicides in the state of Maryland by 61 lives. The death penalty didn't play any role in that. It was our second- biggest reduction since 1985.
So I'm for government that works. I think we should do programs that work to fulfill the most important obligation we have, which is protecting lives in our state. And the death penalty does not work, and it's inconsistent, I believe, with our principles.
MS. MADDOW: The idea of being tough on crime was for so long the defining sort of resonant cord at the middle of American domestic politics. And the death penalty and crime is one of those issues, like abortion, like gay rights, like so many other of these social concern issues that have been so divisive and so partisan for the last 20 years, but things are changing on this issue. We've seen a lot of change on the issue of gay rights. We're seeing a lot of change on the issue of the death penalty. I think that we may start to see change on the issue of abortion rights and a woman's right to choose.
Do you feel like that the politics around these things are just evolving in a way that we couldn't have predicted in the '90s?
GOV. O'MALLEY: Well, I do. And I think, with regard to this public safety issue, I believe we've started to do a lot of things that actually work, you know. In some cases jail is a sound and good public policy for people that shoot and rob or maim other people in our society. And I think, over the last 10 years, we have started to implement, you know, performance-measured policing, ComStat, if you will. We're much smarter about the supervision of people that are out on parole and probation. And all of these things have led to declining violent crime rates. In the city of Baltimore, we've had a huge reduction -- almost, I think, 40 percent in the last seven years. The death penalty wasn't any part of that.
So I think, you know, when you put it to people and lay out the facts -- that the death penalty is not a deterrent, that there is always a chance that an innocent person would be executed -- and then you couple that with the things that we're doing together that actually work to make big American cities safer and to make states safer, I think that the public wants a government that works again. And I think that's part of the reason for this shift underlying the death penalty. Nobody's in favor of expensive policies that don't work, and the death penalty doesn't work.
MS. MADDOW: Governor Martin O'Malley of Maryland, thank you so much for taking the time to join us. It's nice to see you.
GOV. O'MALLEY: Thank you, Rachel. Good seeing you.